FASD Elephant (TM) #013: Interview with Morgan Fawcett – A Flute Like Medicine: Part 1


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Welcome to the FASD Elephant™ Podcast. After a hiatus for way too long, the podcast is back. I’ve had a very exciting year so far in the world of FASD. A major highlight in February 2011 was four days worth of workshops and talks I gave in Saskatchewan—for The Saskatoon Tribal Council in Saskatoon, for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region way up in Prince Albert (in February), and for the FASD Support Network of Saskatchewan which had their annual conference called Communities of Hope in Regina. A second highlight this year is that I joined a speakers mentoring group led by Bill O’Hanlon (the psychologist who developed Solution-Focused Therapy, a writer extraordinaire, and prolific speaker in New Mexico), Fred Gleeck (a business speaker who really knows how to coach developing speakers on the business side of the art) and Avish Parashar (a very successful corporate trainer who coaches developing speakers and helps with targeting your topic). These guys and my fellow mentees have really been inspirational and I can just feel the jump start to my work in presenting more about FASD but also finally developing my worksheets, charts and books that people keep patiently asking me about. The final highlight I want to speak of is the topic of this and the next podcast: a recent visit here to Minneapolis by Morgan Fawcett and his grandparents, Sue and Roy Hempel. Here is an excerpt of the press release we created for his visit: Nineteen year old Morgan Fawcett is an accomplished Tlingit flute player with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). With three albums released, a public speaking career, and a non-profit called One Heart Creations, it seems hard to believe Morgan has any disability. However, he names September 9th, 1991, as his first day of sobriety—the day a judge ordered his mother into alcohol treatment. “That is right,” he says, “My mother drank during her pregnancy, and this is why I raise awareness for FASD.”  “When I play the flute, it lowers my blood pressure and eases stress away,” says Fawcett. “With FASD, you could have ADHD; but instead of being on Ritalin, I play the flute.”  “Kids with FASD naturally seek their own ‘medicines’—usually rhythmic or sensory activities that help settle their damaged nervous systems so they can better cope with the ‘ordinary’ stressors of life,” according to Michael Harris, Indian Health Board psychologist who specializes in the disability. However, adults often mistake these medicines for willful misbehavior if odd or inappropriate—e.g., revolving in a swivel chair, pacing, leaving a room, or having a tantrum. The trick, observes Harris, is for adults to first recognize that the child needs time to settle and regroup, and then to help the child find medicine that works both for the situation and for the child. For Fawcett, the flute is his medicine and his grandparents, Sue and Roy Hempel, perceived that and support it, so he can handle challenges that may be just minor hassles for those without FASD. For teaching youth and professionals alike to use music and art as a medicine and enjoyable alterative to drugs, alcohol and video games, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome will induct Fawcett into the “Tom and Linda Daschle FASD Hall of Fame” in June 2011. Morgan gave talks to each class at a local American Indian magnet school, gave a lecture and concert at my workplace for the public, and honored students in the Warriors Circle groups with an original song, “Legacy,” at the elders’ and family luncheon for students. I listened to him present about a dozen times to classrooms ranging from High-Five pre-kindergarten to eighth graders in the middle school. It was simply inspirational, to the say the least, to hear him and his grandmother tailor his message to such a wide developmental range. It was just amazing to watch the younger kids settle and focus when he started his presentations with a flute song and then how the older kids asked him tough and thoughtful questions about his disability, his life, and his medicine. People stayed to listen and talk to him for an extra hour after the public lecture and concert at my workplace. It was also terrific to meet his grandmother, Sue Hempel, who contributed so well during the presentations and supported Morgan as his “external brain,” keeping him on track and providing support and additional stories and information tailored to the different ages. His grandfather Roy was also a great support in the background and part of Morgan’s team of support. Along the way, I was able to interview Morgan and record it for the podcast. The interview covers topics that have not been normally addressed in the articles about Morgan you may find on the internet, as I wanted to focus on his experiences of transitions, moments of insight and connections, and what medicines he found helpful along the way in order to give listeners insight into what might help others with FASD be and feel successful. This includes having a family and their support, asking the right questions, and becoming strong in his Tlingit culture. Half the interview is on this podcast, and the remaining will be released in another week or so. The show notes on the website has information about Morgan, how to purchase his CDs, and the name of his websites and contact data. Let me just say though, if you need a speaker for your FASD event, call them up. You will be inspired and glad you did. Feedback or comments may be sent to: Michael__at__FASDElephant__dot__com.