Just as people with disabilities may need external support to accomplishdaily living tasks, so do people with an FASD. But instead of needing ramps and wheelchairs to maneuver through their daily life, they may require an “external brain”. Essentially, that means that the people who are important in the life of a person with an FASD (parents, family members, teachers) need to make adjustments to the environment so it is structured, predictable and consistent. This will help the person with an FASD be successful. Below are the main areas of concern where “external brain” strategies can to be implemented. Since the range of disabilities varies from one child to another, all children may not need help with all of these skills.
Social isolation is all too common in individuals with FASD. The potential for poor communication, an inability to predict the consequences of their actions, and poor impulse control may make it hard to make and keep friends. This can lead to anxiety and depression. These skills should be taught and supported in all of their environments since they may have difficulty transferring an appropriate learned behavior from one environment to another.
Children affected by an FASD may require extra help in learning basic communication skills. They may need help learning how to use appropriate language in various settings. Teach them to be aware of verbal and nonverbal expressions as well as gestures and other behaviors used by others as prompts to help convey information. Using social stories with children can be a helpful way to teach them these skills. More information on social stories can be found at The Gray Center website.
Functional or Adaptive Living Skills
Many adults with FASD need to learn a variety of skills to live independently. These skills need to be taught in the environment where they will be used – i.e. school, work, and home, along with other public places. For example, they need to not only learn how to fill out an application and find a job, but also how to keep the job. In addition, they need to learn how to perform daily living skills, including independence in transportation.
Behavior management is perhaps most important part of any program dealing with children with FASD. Structure is a key element in creating a successful behavioral program. The structure should be simple, well-defined and consistent. It may help to think in terms of “black and white”, avoiding any grey areas.
If behavior “A” equals consequence “B” today, then it must also equal consequence “B” tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
Remember: all behavior is a form of communication. It is up to the caregivers to understand the meaning behind the behavior. It is often helpful for caregivers to talk with someone about their child’s behavior because it can be very confusing! It can be easy to interpret that the child is being willfully disobedient, when in fact the child may not fully understand what is expected of him/her.
Another challenge is planning ahead. A crisis is not the time to decide how we are going to react to a certain situation or what the consequences for the behavior will be.