The Mystery of Risk

The Harried Parent's Book Club Review

The Mystery of Risk
Cover image courtesy of NTI Upstream

Compare Prices

50-Word Review

If you're the parent of a child with prenatal alcohol exposure and you're looking to increase your understanding and your skill at behavior management, you'll find plenty of good material here.

Unfortunately, you'll have to slog through a lot of the same old sad stories to get to it.

250-Word Review

When my son was first diagnosed with FAE in 1995, I was encouraged by his neurologist not to pay much attention to that diagnosis, because there was nothing to be done for it. Most of the reading material about FAS/FAE back then took up that hopeless theme; it was hard to find anything that didn't suggest kids like him were doomed to prison and drugs and early death. With time, though, I found research that suggested best practices, and FASD-specific behavior-management strategies that saved my boy from his doom.

The Mystery of Risk has some good additions to that, with useful explanations of the way fetal-alcohol-affected brains work and detailed strategies for home and school. Yet much of the book is still devoted to those same old case studies of incarceration and abuse and adoptive parents at the end of their ropes, the same fist-shaking against the many societal factors that leave these kids at a loss.

The book is certainly worthwhile reading for parents raising kids with FASD -- it will either introduce you to some new ways of thinking and disciplining and coping, or validate the things you're already doing -- but I do believe an opportunity was missed to create a focused, proactive, "we know what to do now" resource.

At any rate, I'd recommend skipping over those gloomy tales of woe. If your child has already been through that hell, you've got stories of your own, and if not, you're better off focusing on your own hopeful outcome.

Is This Book for You?

It's definitely for you if: you have a child with FASD, your family is struggling to cope with extreme behaviors and challenges, and you're fearful of the future if you can't find a way to get through to your youngster.

It may be for you if: your child with FASD is not in crisis but you're always looking for new strategies and ways to understand the way his or her brain works ... you're considering adopting a child with FASD and want to know what you're in for ... you're an educator working with alcohol-affected students and need proven strategies.

It may not be for you if: you're annoyed by case studies that do not relate to your personal experience with your child ... you've read a lot about successful techniques for working with children with FASD and don't need a review or a pat on the back ...

you prefer books that do one thing well rather than wander from research to advice to politics.

It's definitely not for you if: you're dedicated to rigid discipline and see behavior management as giving in to the child ... you're convinced that treating the symptoms of FASD rather than addressing it directly is the only way to go ... you're unwilling to change your own behavior as well as your child's.

Table of Contents

[I found it somewhat annoying that the chapter titles mostly give no clue to what you'll be reading about. There's a little bit of explanatory information on the contents page, but I think more straightforward chapter titles or chapter subtitles would have been a big help to the reader.]

Preface: Missteps in the Dance of Attunement
Part I: Behavior Belongs in the Brain
1. The Long Road to Here
2. Alcohol, Aristotle, and Swiss Cheese
3. Toddlers, Toxins, and Smearing Feces
4. Lake Effect Snow
5. Through the Looking Glass
6. Off the Wall
7. Memory Becomes History
Part II: The Context of Normal
8. The Developmental Basis for Behavior
9. Sources of Child Behavior Problems
Part III: The Language of Whispers
10. Coming to a Theatre Near You: The External Brain
11. Problem Solving as Opposed to Tearing Your Hair Out
12. Looking for Lord Ganesha
Part IV: The Politics of Policy
13. The GoodEnough Syndrome
Appendix: Policy Recommendations

Try This Now

Many of the explanations and strategies in this book reminded me strongly of a document I put together for my son when he was in fourth grade and having behavior problems in the classroom. Intended as a stopgap behavior plan until the district's behavior specialist could come in and observe, it distilled all the information I had learned to that point about what made my son tick and all the techniques we had found successful. I'm honored to have that behavior plan I wrote online on the FASlink site, which offers many other good resources for families. Though The Mystery of Risk goes into much more detail and offers a wider range of solutions, give my old document a read for a quick start -- or to let you know right off that things like behavior management and changing the environment are going to be a problem for you.

Compare Prices

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

Continue Reading