Chanel T. is a 21-year-old Veterinary Technician from St. Petersburg, Florida. Her greatest passions in life are dogs and parrots, of which she owns two: dog Elizabeth Taylor and parrot Johnny Angel. She is also passionate about educating others about preventing FASD and ensuring that no one else is affected by this lifelong disability.
Brianna Montgomery: Welcome, Chanel! It is so nice to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview. I look forward to learning more about you.
Chanel T.: Thank you, you too.
BM: Let me get started and I will ask you a few questions about your life and your interests. First question for you, how does having FAS affect your life on a daily basis?
CT: FAS is very, very difficult. I don’t get up everyday with the same question. This is something that I just have to deal with.
BM: What are some of your biggest challenges with having FAS?
CT: My speech impediment is one of the most hard. I go through it everyday. Another problem that I have is that I don’t learn the way that other people learn. It is very challenging for someone that does not know my disability. They don’t understand that they have to slow it down. They can’t give me five steps to do something; they can probably just give me two or three at a time.
BM: What tools do you use to overcome these challenges?
CT: The teachers have been keeping me in front of the classroom and it really helps me to not get distracted and things like that.
BM: Anything that helps! Earlier today you had shared your FASD website with me. Along with the website, what do you do to educate others about your disability?
CT: This is a 100% preventable disability and I present in the classrooms of younger teenagers and they don’t really realize that drinking can give the unborn a very hard life. I have learned so much about myself through helping others with these presentations.
BM: That is definitely true. When you are teaching others about yourself, you learn more about yourself.
BM: So you give presentations in classroom settings, have you ever spoken at a conference before?
CT: Not yet. That’s the next part that I am working toward. I would love to give a presentation for your organization.
BM: We would love that! Thank you. Tell me a little bit about your website, http://advocatefortheunborn.com/default.aspx. How did it get started?
CT: I love presenting, but I never really wanted to do a website. Then when one of the teachers from school was like “Chanel, you need to do a website”, that’s when my older sister helped me get it going.
BM: Was it easy to put together?
CT: My older sister helped a lot and got it done in like two hours.
BM: Tell me a little bit about the content of your website. I saw that you are a strong advocate for the incarceration of women that are consuming alcohol during their pregnancies until the child is born. Why do you feel so strongly about that?
CT: Most women that drink while they are pregnant are already addicted to alcohol. What I was thinking that if they were clean before the baby was born that they would see that new life and continue to be clean. I think that is very important.
BM: NOFAS has a strong stance on this issue as well. We believe that women who are pregnant should not be incarcerated but helped in to treatment. Are you saying that you want the women do be incarcerated in jail or put in to treatment facilities?
CT: They should be in treatment so that they can receive the help that they need. Jail wouldn’t provide that.
BM: When were you diagnosed with FAS?
CT: At birth, I was six weeks premature.
BM: Wow, very early. You seem like you are doing very well now though. What do you do now? Do you work or go to school?
CT: I work and go to school.
BM: Are you in college? What do you study?
CT: I am a senior this year and I am studying to be a Kennel Technician at Richard L. Sanders School. I love animals.
BM: Tell me about your passion for working with animals. Do you have any pets?
CT: I have one dog and one parrot. My parrot’s name is Johnny Angel and my puppy’s name is Elizabeth Taylor.
BM: Very cool names! What kind of dog is Elizabeth Taylor?
CT: She’s an Italian Greyhound.
BM: Wow! So you are a dog and a parrot person, do you like cats and other animals too?
CT: I’m not a cat person, really. I like parrots, rabbits and puppy dogs.
BM: What kind of work do you do right now? Are you working with animals?
CT: I am a Veterinary Advocate.
BM: Do you like your job?
CT: It is a very high stress job.
BM: What causes it to be high stress?
CT: Lots of animals to take care of.
BM: I bet that would be tough, but rewarding.
CT: It is.
BM: What other interests do you have?
CT: I enjoy watching TV. I like the Golden Girls.
BM: Which Golden Girl is your favorite?
CT: That’s a hard one. I probably have to say Dorothy.
BM: She’s funny. What other television shows do you like?
CT: Let me think…I like Life in the ER.
BM: Another good one, what other things do you like to do?
CT: I like to talk on the phone and go on the computer…especially YouTube.
BM: Do you have your own YouTube site or do you just like to watch videos?
CT: I like to watch videos on FAS on YouTube.
BM: Have you seen the NOFAS YouTube site, AlcoholFreePregnancy?
CT: No, I haven’t, but I would like to.
BM: We have some great videos on there from experts in the field and of people with FASD. I will send you the link. Do you have any other hobbies or do you have a favorite place to visit?
CT: I really like to go to Busch Gardens. It is close to where I live. I love rollercoasters.
BM: Rollercoasters are a lot of fun. That must be nice to live so close to such a cool place.
CT: It is. I like it.
BM: Do you do any volunteer work?
CT: I volunteer at a nursing home. I take Elizabeth Taylor over there.
BM: That’s so nice! I bet the residents really like that.
CT: Yes, I like to see everybody and go over there.
BM: That’s very nice of you to do that. I only have one more question for you, what is the most important thing that you want people to know about FASD?
CT: This is a lifelong struggle and is 100% preventable. This is not my fault at all. You can bring 100 doctors in to a room and they can all tell you not to drink while pregnant, but when you bring a child with FAS in to a room and they see that this is what she goes through every day, they listen more to that than what you are hearing from the doctors.
BM: That is so true. This is your life everyday and you have done so many great things with your life. Thank you so much for speaking with me and for all of the amazing work that you do. I have greatly enjoyed learning about you.
CT: Please let me know if you know of anyone that would like a presentation on FAS. As many presentations as I can get, one more child is saved.
BM: I would be happy to let people know. Thank you, Chanel.
CT: Thank you, Brianna.