“My name is Karri, and I’m the star of this movie.”
That’s how teenager Karri McCartney introduced herself to the Kootenay Lake School Board on Tuesday evening, before sharing a film that’s available online detailing her experiences with being diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
“My biological mother drank when she was pregnant with me. She was drunk when she gave birth to me and the social workers took me away,” McCartney says in the film, which was played for Superintendent Jeff Jones and the trustees.
People who suffer from FASD experience a range of health problems, which includes having an abnormal appearance, short height, and difficulties with seeing and hearing. It also creates poor coordination, low intelligence and behaviour issues.
McCartney was joined by her mother Carolyn, as well as her education assistant Holly Biggar and inclusion support teacher Sandy Boscariol, who praised her for her bravery in coming forward.
Afterwards, McCartney was feeling giddy.
“It was scary and nerve-wracking because there was teachers and stuff, but I’m proud that I got to share with them my story so they can learn more about my disability,” she said.
One point she was hoping to drive home: FASD is invisible, which means people don’t often understand her disability or why she behaves the way she does.
“It’s very hard on your self-esteem, and it’s hard to be with your friends, so you get down. I didn’t even know I had a disability before.”
She said she believes “everybody has some problem or challenge,” and now she wants to inspire people by showing how she’s overcome her obstacles.
“One of my passions is animals, including Kesha my snake. My life revolves around animals because they’ve always been there for me in my struggles and they’re just amazing.”
She said “the world wouldn’t be good without animals.”
McCartney is now planning to tour around the district visiting schools and sharing her film, something she’s nervous about but intends to do.
“I’ve learned in my youth that kids can be very hard on people they don’t understand, mostly people who have disabilities, and I’ve had a lot of challenges with kids in my life. I just think of my video and take deep breaths and think of the other people who have felt like this too.”
She encourages other people with FASD to be “brave and strong.”
“FASD is incurable but it is preventable. One way to prevent it is to not drink while pregnant, and even though doctors say you can drink, it’s okay to have one glass of wine, that’s not true: it’s really bad.”
She said “I don’t want any other kid to have what I have, because even though my life seems normal it’s not, it’s hard, and I want to prevent this.”
But regardless, she aims to have an “awesome life.”
“I’m going to show my video in Creston and other cities and I’m going to continue on sharing my story with everybody.”
School board chair Lenora Trenaman praised McCartney and her mother, calling them an inspiration and thanking them for taking the time to educate the board on the issues surrounding FASD.
The film was filmed and edited by Amy Bohigian, with original music provided by Ben Euerby.
You can watch the video “Karri’s Story” at fasdoutreach.ca/elearning/student-stories/karris-story.