individuals with FASD have great difficulty controlling their
temper. Lack of impulse control and inability to predict consequences
can quickly escalate to a rage when they are frustrated about
something. The following are some notes taken from a discussion
on weapons on the FASlink Forum. The discussion centered around
the stabbing murder of Christopher
Surbey on June 6, 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His adopted
mother, Val Surbey, was the founder of FASlink in 1995.
that time, Christopher was under a Voluntary Parental Agreement
with Child and Family Services, with his case being contracted
out to MacDonald Youth Services and he was currently in the
Transition program through the Ministry of Youth Services.
required close supervision due to his poor judgment and his
inability to avoid risky situations. However, the residential
placement provided for Chris only allowed for daytime supervision.
His parents pleaded with the agency to supervise him at night
as well, as he was at highest risk during the evening hours,
when he would go out alone into the community.
was the 8th murder in Winnipeg this year. On July 4th, Winnipeg's
14th murder was committed by a girl who grabbed a kitchen
paring knife and slashed the throat of another girl at a party.
Alcohol and drugs were involved.
scary enough to let them have a pencil! I had one stab at
another and it went under his tongue and made a huge hole."
anything can become a weapon. A pen, pencil, comb, roll of
coins, coins in a sock, golf ball, rubber band and paper clip,
knitting needle, or a belt buckle or a spike or heavy nut
on a string, can all be effective weapons. A favourite gang
weapon is a basic bicycle chain or any other heavy chain.
Imagine what can be done with a chainsaw chain.
tightly rolled up newspaper becomes an improvised Kubotan.
A standard Kubotan is a short bar, about 6 inches long and
half an inch thick made from hard plastic or aluminium, and
has a rounded tapered point at one end. It sometimes has a
hole in the other end allowing it to hold keys or the like.
Kubotans are generally used to inflict pain without causing
any physical danger to the target.
keys between the fingers are a punching and slashing weapon.
A credit card or plastic drivers license is a lethal slashing
weapon. High heels are absolutely vicious. A barehanded punch
by a woman to the Adam's Apple can instantly disable. Many
self-defense courses will teach about all of these. Most bookstores
carry a tiny book called SAS Self-defense. It was written
by a former Special Air Services officer. It teaches effective
strategies for non-lethal extraction from a dangerous situation.
anything can become a weapon. It depends entirely on the situation.
A normal household kitchen or workshop is an incredible weapons
cache, both in hard objects and chemical weapons. Pepper spray
is illegal in Canada but you can buy cayenne pepper by the
pound at any grocery store. Nunchucks are simply a pair of
short pieces of hardwood doweling (a broom handle will do)
joined by a short length of chain. Ammonium nitrite is a basic
household and farm fertilizer, but mixed with diesel fuel
it is a standard mining slurry explosive and was used by Timothy
McVey. A mixture of potassium nitrite, sulphur and charcoal
is gun powder. Mixing standard household cleaners can poison
or explode. All of this information is readily available at
bookstores and on the Internet.
we make a marshmallow world, we are constantly surrounded
by things that can be used to maim or kill, including cars.
In a rage or a threatening situation, whatever is handy can
turn from an innocent object into a lethal weapon. Therefore,
the objective is to prevent the rage or the threatening situation.
confrontations and power struggles, particularly with many
individuals with FASD, can rapidly escalate to dangerous levels.
We have to learn to defuse the situations quickly.
silly as it may seem, sometimes humour is actually the most
effective weapon to disarm a potentially harmful situation.
Some police forces actually take training in its use.That
does not mean capitulate and let the kids do something harmful,
but tactics like humour or diversion can work wonders.
to avoid rages vary depending on the age and maturity of the
individual. Here are some ideas from FASlink members on how
to defuse a confrontation or prevent one in the first place:
- The appropriate
medications can dramatically reduce
the likelihood of rages.
- Humour is
a great tension breaker.
- Quiet voice,
whisper, soft tones; sudden or gradual shift
music, naturalistic sounds [rain forest, dolphins]; equipment
ready to go, immediately at hand
- Change of
lighting, shade, warmth or cooling, window blinds, shades;
e.g. let a fan blow a soft drape
- Quick clear
change of activity, such as "ah I know - let's paint"
and then maybe get the feelings out on the paper and with
- Find a safe
pillowed chair to sit in for safety, encourage legs curled
up and an afghan or pillow on lap; not only the youngest
- Speak in the
child's "voice" and express in rhythm rhyme
what they must be feeling such as " I am so so mad.
I am so so sad. I do not wannabe bad. I am sad, mad glad
that Mama knows I'm not bad, clap clap clap".
- Make silly
putty - from scratch [use pushing, rolling, patting gestures]
- Make cinnamon
rolls - from scratch and put a dot of flour on your noses
until you giggle
- Build an obstacle
course with cardboard boxes and a tunnel and a mini ramp
and a cardboard table and couch cushions, and keep this
placed in storage and on hand.
- Close eyes
and adult talk child through relaxing from head to toe
- Read a favourite
book aloud; maybe even act it out
- Turn off the
TV and unplug the telephone
- Play monopoly
or candyland or checkers and allow the child to make up
their own rules and enjoy those immensely
- Suck on malts,
popsicles, juice boxes, fruit smoothie with straws as
it organizes one of the sensory avenues
- Play mime
face or peek a boo, with raging face and peaceful face,
angry face and silly face in instant presto chang-o
- Talk about
the dog, if the dog is worried we are having some loud
words? How can we make life better for the dog?
- Give permission
for anger or frustration in small doll play, or even furry
toy animules who can flip and fly and fall and be loved
again honing in on not such big outbursts
- Have a doll
house where the rules are a bit more expanded to allow
free expression until these come into tone with your home
- Stop, think,
do not speak. If we are silent, sometimes our children
come right over to us and ask "muh muh? are you okay?"
[right in the middle of their own snit fits]
These in no way take the place of medication administration
under psychiatric supervision and/or parent/family training
in an appropriate FASD enlightened setting.
- Strategies, not Solutions
- When you see
an outburst coming, distract your child with a short funny
story or provide
something else to look at, touch, eat, etc.
- If your teen
has gotten worked up about something and is angry, redirect
her with deep
muscle work (for example, floor washing or allow her to
stomp around in an “angry room”).
Understanding feelings and emotions is vital to good communication,
but both are very abstract concepts. A child or youth with
FASD may need concrete methods to help recognize what he is
feeling. Therefore, teach emotions in a concrete way (e.g.,
smiling means happy.)
child will not necessarily be able to understand the emotions
of others just because we were able to help him understand
Location and Diversion
reality for our kids with FASD as they grow older, is that
the primary line of self-defense is for them to be on the
proper medications. That way they don't overreact or react
inappropriately to situations that can lead to rages and violence.
The second critical factor is to keep them away from places
where they can get into trouble. The third critical factor
is that staff dealing with individuals such as Christopher
need to learn how to control without being confrontational,
triggering rages. The system failed Christopher on all counts.