If there is one thing, I think we can agree on, is people with FASD will never cease to amaze us with their resilience and strength in overcoming significant obstacles or barriers in their lives. Chris Fillion, my guest today, is no exception. I have no doubt you will find his story a little familiar and “a lot of” inspiring. It is a true testament to his strength and the people who believed in him.
Chris Fillion was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at the age of 9. He grew up in the Child and Family Services system. He has some experience in the justice system, and currently is head of a not-for-profit organization called WEAREYOU Services for at-risk individuals with a disability. WEAREYOU exists to assist individuals who may become involved with the law. Chris is also an advocate within the FASD community worldwide. His main goal in life is to help others and to provide education on FASD to help break the stigma against people who have been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
I owned it (my FASD). I live with FASD. I can’t see myself exist without FASD.
We delve right into Chris' early life and talk about how he came to be placed into the foster care system. Despite being diagnosed with FASD and ADHD, he was never told about his disability. This lack of understanding likely led to his involvement in the justice system. There are some interesting themes woven throughout Chris’ life so far, including the importance of:
I see the world differently than others. I see things in patterns. I see people do the same thing everyday…and then I can do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and now I become a better person.
Chris has devoted himself to helping people with FASD not only navigate the justice system but also people in the community understand the disability through his advocacy work and the creation of a non-profit: WEAREYOU.
Our vision is to help Youth, Teen and Adults with special needs (unofficial diagnosis) stay out of the justice system and find them the right program within the community. Help the community understand avenge is not the answer. Provide the tools to support staff and families to understand the differences in the way these individuals may perceive and react to varying situations, thereby helping to solve problems before they get out of control.
I have had the immense fortune to meet and talk with so many individuals on the Spectrum who are doing incredible things that are providing meaning to their lives – whether that be as parents, working in a field they enjoy or pursuing something that speaks to their soul. It does not matter if one develops this vision early or late in life: what matters is they have come to a point where Chris says, they accept their disability, accept support from others and have the courage to go after their dreams. Chris ends our discussion with a quote that has kept him going.
Let me know what you think of this cool dude and his story. Chris has great insight and thanks to the people who provided lifelines to him, he is now providing hope and lifelines for others.