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Module 6: Diagnosis and Treatment of FASD

Guidelines for Working With Individuals With an FASD

Clipboard Much of what has been learned about what works with individuals with an FASD has been through trial and error. Strategies may change due to constant changes and inconsistencies in the individual’s behavior and mood. Some general guidelines for addressing the difficulties faced by individuals with an FASD follow:

  • Look at the fit between the child and the environment, such as sensitivity to stimuli and scheduling issues. You may need to modify the environment. Suggestions include:
    • Use softer lighting
    • Simplify the person's room, placing minimal furniture and limiting choices of clothing and games
    • Establish visual cues, such as charts
    • Provide study carrels to minimize distractions
    • Provide small classrooms
    • Seat the child close to the teacher
    • Use color codes to label belongings
  • Accept the child’s condition as a medical disability that cannot be cured. But remember that individuals with an FASD can grow, change, and improve if their environment provides support for their cognitive differences.
  • Help the individual understand his or her condition. Persons with an FASD, like all people, need to make sense to themselves.
  • Always include the person in developing solutions to problem behaviors.
  • Do not punish individuals with an FASD for memory lapses. Provide a structure to remind them and places to go for help when they forget.
  • Prepare the individual for difficult situations. Try role-playing how to interact with peers. Persons with an FASD have difficulty generalizing. Just because they can behave appropriately in one situation does not mean they can do so in similar situations.
  • Establish consistent routines. When the timing changes, maintain the same order of events.
  • Establish consistent rules taught at a young age with an eye toward developing patterns of appropriate behavior as an adult.
  • Teach values in a concrete manner by structuring the environment. For example, to teach a young person not to drink alcohol, structure the environment so that restaurants are okay but bars are not. Persons with an FASD do not understand the abstract meanings behind many social situations. They will likely fail if they have to make these kinds of decisions without support.
  • Prepare for transitions early and repeatedly for little and big events and do so on a continuing basis.
  • Provide opportunities for positive social experiences.
  • Limit directions to one at a time using visual and auditory cues.
  • Talk to the child, adolescent, or adult with an FASD using concrete terms and avoid idioms, words with double meanings, and other terms that can be confused.
  • If a child, adolescent, or adult with an FASD is doing well with a certain level of structure and support, that determines the level of support needed for success. Do not take away the support because the person is doing well.

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