Meet the Three Ghost Writers for the “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix” blog.
Dr. Rich and Daniela brainstorm with each other, send web links for articles, and gather ideas from teens about their posts. Dr. Rich reviews her post drafts before she uploads them to ensure accuracy and appropriate content.
In the summer of 2012 she graduated top in her class from the University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld, Germany with a degree in social work. The following year she did an internship as a caregiver in a group home for children with severe distress in their family. Most of the children she worked with experienced psychological, physical or sexual abuse. Their working goal in the home was to assist in diagnosing and working with the children and teach the parents important fundamental skills they need for raising their children and providing a happy and safe home. They work hand in hand with child safety services, psychologists and a family resource counselor to either help both the parents and the child to create family bonds again or find a new home for the child.
How did Daniela get involved with the Better Safe Than Sorry Campaign?
“To answer this question I have to go a few years back… In 2008 I decided to become an Au Pair and leave my home in Germany to spend one year in the United States with a wonderful and loving family who had adopted 4 children from Russia. Over the last 6 years we stayed in touch and they became my “American family” who I was then visiting every summer while I was on break from getting my Bachelor’s degree back in Germany in Social Work. With the kids getting older we noticed them struggling in school. They seemed to have a very short attention span and some times a hard time following and understanding the teacher’s instructions. We noticed, that they couldn’t respond correctly to social cues. That’s when they started to see Dr. Rich. All four children show signs of FASD. When I came back in the summer of 2013 to take a gap year before applying to Graduate School to get a degree in Clinical Psychology, I knew I wanted to intern to gain more experience and knowledge on psychological topics. So I met with Dr. Rich and she told me about her idea to create a blog site for young women and men to inform them about a condition called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and to help prevent the next generation of FASD. I feel honored to work with Dr. Rich, an incredible woman so well known and well respected in the psychiatric community.
It makes me sad to see the kids struggle every day and know that their brain damage could have been prevented. That’s why I want to get the word out! In my opinion it is very simple, if you are having sex and you are not planning on getting pregnant, use contraceptives. If you are planning on getting pregnant or aren’t using contraceptives, don’t drink alcohol.”
We are continuing to develop the campaign, always welcoming new high school and college student interns lined up to work with us on the BSTS project.
Lauren Grenier, a rising senior in psychology at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, joined the Better Safe Than Sorry team in the Spring of 2015. After her graduation from Siena in 2016, she plans to pursue a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology, leading to a career that focuses both on counseling children and adolescents and teaching as a college professor, educating the future generation in the profession.
Lauren spent the spring of 2015 interning at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Albany NY, which functioned as a Crisis Intervention Center for children aged five to twelve. Rotating on a 20 to 30 day schedule, children would leave this RTC with no change in behavior, only to return in a few months time. Concerned as to why the treatment was not helping these children, Lauren found a possible explanation when she joined the BSTS team and learned about ND-PAE.
How has Lauren’s recent understanding of the prevalence of ND-PAE shaped her perspective?
“It wasn’t until I discovered Dr. Rich’s passion and focus of her work that I learned about ND-PAE, the new DSM-5 diagnostic term for FASD. My first assignment on the internship was to read Bonnie Buxton’s book, Damaged Angels. Shocked at the similarities between her adopted daughter who was diagnosed with ND-PAE and almost every child I worked with in the RTC that spring, I quickly learned how prevalent and devastating this disorder is. Immersed in ND-PAE education with Dr. Rich, we traveled to Toronto to present at the APA 168th Annual Meeting in May 2015 and will be presenting at the International Congress of Law and Mental Health in Vienna, Austria in July 2015.
As my summer interning with the BSTS team has progressed – reading more literature, speaking with Dr. Rich, and doing more research – my understanding of ND-PAE has continued to develop. The question I keep asking myself is, why is no one talking about this? In three years of Psychology classes, how have I never been taught about this disorder? Of the number of case histories I read at the RTC, why was not even one client diagnosed with this condition? If 2-5% of school aged children have some degree of this problem, and it is more common than Autism, why did I not learn about it until this point in my education?
I am thankful to have learned about this epidemic at this age, before the start of my graduate education and future career. With a disorder that is 100% preventable, it is necessary to raise awareness to people of all ages, and all professions. In addition to educating mental health and law professionals at two international conferences in the summer of 2015, I am thankful that I will be able to spread awareness to my home in Massachusetts, my school in New York, wherever my graduate education takes me, and throughout my future career. For the well being of our future generations, and to increase support for those with the disorder, we need to continue the conversation: do not drink alcohol if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy…and prevent pregnancy if you use alcohol!”
Sydnie Butin, A rising senior in psychology at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland, joined the Better Safe than Sorry team in the Spring of 2014. After her graduation from Salisbury in 2016, she plans to attend graduate school for Public Health and go on to get her doctorate in psychology. She aspires to help the ND-PAE community by helping families, physicians, and education professionals become familiar with ND-PAE. Her goal is to decrease the amount of misdiagnoses, increase preconception health education, and help individuals with ND-PAE receive the appropriate education and life management skills.
How did Sydnie get involved with the Better Safe than Sorry Campaign?
“Back in high school I volunteered with a teacher, Joan Goldstein, who started the “Scholars” program which helps 9th graders transition into high school life. After my second year of college I wanted to gain some experience in the psychology field so I gave Joan a call to see if she had any openings in the counseling center or knew anybody in the field. She immediately told me about Dr. Susan Rich. I emailed Dr. Rich about working with her to gain some experience, she told me to come over to speak with her about the possible projects I could work on. Upon meeting her she told me about the Better Safe than Sorry campaign and I was instantly interested. I fully joined the team and got to work.
I instantly saw why Dr. Rich is so well respected in this field. She educated me on ND-PAE and I realized how unaware so many people were, including myself. That’s when I decided on helping her fight save future children from brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol.
It’s 100% preventable and it’s so easy. Just don’t drink during the preconception period, through pregnancy, and through lactation. If more women did that then their children could reach their full potential.”