Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)


FASD:  What is it?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder describes a range of disorders caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. It is an “educational” term that refers to a variety of physical changes and neurological and/or psychometric patterns of brain damage. The brain damage can result in a range of structural, physiological, learning and behavioural disabilities. (Clarren, 2004)

The “umbrella” term FASD includes:

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
 Medical diagnostic term
 Four criteria examined by a medical team
 Alcohol exposure during pregnancy
 Growth deficiency
 Certain facial characteristics
 Central nervous system dysfunction or brain damage

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
 Indicates confirmed maternal alcohol exposure
 Child shows some of the physical signs of FAS
Child has learning and behavioural difficulties which imply central nervous    system damage

Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
Child shows central nervous system damage as a result of a confirmed history of prenatal alcohol exposure
 The neurological damage may show up as learning difficulties, poor impulse control, poor social skills, and problems with memory, attention and judgment

Essential Tips:

1. Respect, build a relationship, and understand the learner
 Acknowledge the learner’s developmental levels in various domains
 Spend time getting to know your learner
 Understand the needs and feelings of the learner
 Give praise for steps taken
 Teach that mistakes are normal and help us to learn
 Get to know your learner’s family and establish a trusting relationship
 Ask the learner what would help him/her
 Advocate on the learner’s behalf
2. Acknowledge the organic brain injury
 Approach FASD as a physical, brain-based disability
 Connect how brain function links to the learning and behaviour
 Ask “What can I do differently to support this learner?”
 Ask “What is the behaviour communicating to me?”
 Plan and structure activities to provide success for all
 On those tough days, remember that “Every day is a new day”

3. Acknowledge the environmental influences
 Understand and adapt the environment to create a good fit for the learner
 Experience (sight, sounds, etc.) the classroom from the learner’s point of view
 Seat the learner in a less distracting area (preferential seating)
 Ensure that all things have a place—classroom is organized in a consistent manner
 Control lighting, temperature, smells as much as possible
 Utilize visuals for everything (schedule, specific areas of room, labels, supplies)
 Create a “quiet space” for learners to enjoy some “down” time

4. Use a strengths-based approach
 Recognize and build on the strengths of the learner
 Help learners to find and identify their strengths and “amplify” them
 Focus on the positive and have fun
 Focus on strengths in developing the LEIC page and the IEP
 Take a strength and build it into a contribution to the school community

5. Communicate
 With student, family, school team, and community supports
 Reduce language whenever possible
 Use visual supports
 Say exactly what you want the learner to do
 Present an appropriate number of directions based on the learner’s capabilities
 Ensure that the learner is comfortable asking for help
 Check in frequently with the students and provide praise and direction

6. Practice patience:
 Understand the nature of the disability—learning may be there one day, gone the next
 Break complex tasks into smaller steps
 Understand that repetition and many practice opportunities may be  required
 Linking behaviour to brain function helps to “depersonalize” the behaviour
7. Create structure, routines, and consistency:
 Our kids rely on the structure and predictability of our classroom environments
 Teach routines for the “everyday” types of activities
 Provide advance warnings for changes to schedule and transitions
 Model, teach, practice and review classroom guidelines/routines throughout the year

8. Supervision:
 Determine an appropriate level of supervision, especially at unstructured times
 Try to be visible to the learner as much as possible
 Use conflicts/mistakes as opportunities for teaching

9. Teach social skills:
 Teach/practice in classroom setting then teach/practice in out-of-class settings
 Use small group setting when appropriate
 Build a positive peer climate in the classroom and utilize peer support
 Teach mediating skills using role plays

10. All learners are different
 Collect as much assessment information as possible to help inform instruction
 There are no magical strategies; a strategy that works for one may not for another
 Our job is to know the learners well enough to find the strategies that may help
 Keep trying different strategies until you find the ones that make a difference

From the Provincial Outreach Program (POPFASD) website: http://www.fasdoutreach.ca
There are many excellent links on this website, including links to resources, learning modules, and FASD networks.



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