FASD Classroom Prevention Education
It is important to reinforce a strong no alcohol message for all students. You may want to integrate simple prevention lessons into health, biology or sociology curriculum.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe a broad range of effects associated with alcohol use during pregnancy. The spectrum can include physical effects as well as effects on the brain that may result in problems with learning, emotions and behavior.
- When a pregnant woman drinks, the baby drinks.
- Alcohol is a depressant; it stops, stunts or destroys whatever is in its path.
- The baby's growth is often altered and slowed.
- The baby can suffer lifelong damage.
Pregnant women who drink do not intentionally harm their unborn babies. In many cases, they simply do not know about FASD or fully understand the risks. They may have been given incorrect information about alcohol and pregnancy from family, friends or health care providers. In some cases, women have a serious problem with alcohol and they need professional help to stop drinking. Others do not even realize they are pregnant when the drinking occurs. It’s important not to place blame or increase stigma which could result in the pregnant woman not receiving healthcare for herself or the unborn child.
FASD does not just occur in children of alcoholics. There is no safe amount and no safe time to drink during pregnancy.
Educating Children with FASD
It is likely that there are children with FASD in every school system. While it is difficult to give a precise estimate, a school system with 10,000 students might have 80 to 100 students with learning problems related to FASD. Some of these children will have problems severe enough that they are best served in self-contained special education classes. The majority, however, will be enrolled in regular classrooms. Within this majority, some students with FASD will have resource room support, but many others will be unidentified and may be struggling to learn. (FASD Center for Learning Excellence, Reach to Teac, DHHS 2007)
Teachers and other staff can make a difference by reaching out to the child and using specific classroom strategies to assist learning. These strategies include structuring a caring and consistent environment, shifting attitudes and improving understanding, learning to translate misbehavior, changing classroom teaching style, restructuring the physical space in the classroom and engaging the whole school community.
Classroom Concerns (What Behaviors May Occur)
- Easily frustrated
- Poor fine and gross motor skills
- Poor attention
- Lack of organizational skills
- Problems with concrete thinking
- Poor peer relations
What the Behaviors Might Look Like
- FAS/FASD students may have varying degrees of brain damage.
- Children with FAS/FASD may have trouble expressing themselves. Be aware of their body language and know the warning signs for frustration, sadness, anger and other potentially hurtful emotions.
- Concepts that may be problematic include decision-making, time, impulsiveness and distinguishing between public and private behaviors.
- Memory tasks are difficult. Children with FAS/FASD may not be able to generalize information they have learned from one day to the next. It is important to make eye contact (unless this produces anxiety), repeat things and use short instructions.
- Math skills are difficult. Most students do not advance beyond a second- or third-grade level.
- Be prepared for inconsistent performance, frustration with transitions and the need for individual attention.
- Many children experience sensory integration problems. Crowds, holding hands, hugs, certain textiles and tags in clothes or seams in socks may induce sensitivity.
How Educators and Families Can Work Together
Parents and teachers should not have to start from scratch each year. School Administrators can ensure continuity for learning by encouraging parents to provide the new teacher with a summary of the student’s needs and best approaches that have been found most helpful. Make sure that this information is included in the child’s school records. Focus on strengths and what WILL WORK as opposed to deficits.