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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the Classroom

What is FAS? Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE) is a relatively newly 'named' neurological disorder. In the early '70's, FAS was named after the recognition of the distinct impact of the damage caused to the fetus with alcohol abuse. FAS impact to children include: delayed growth, intellectual and behavioral deficits and certain facial characteristics. Facial characteristics include, smaller eye slits, a flatter midface, shortened noses, thinner upper lips, flatter or lower nose bridges and chins that are often slight more pointed. FAS children are often smaller than other children their age. Typically a diagnosis of FAS is made when there is known, prenatal alcohol exposure and the above characteristics are indicated. FAS students often go undiagnosed and the behavior and learning difficulties experienced by these students often puzzle their teachers. There is no cure for FAS.

What is the Impact of FAS?

Each child is unique and their learning styles and needs will vary. The FAS student is no different. However, typically a child with FAS will have some or all of the following: weak attention spans, difficulty with social skills, weak memories, difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics and delayed language development. The FAS child may fidgit more than usual, may not work well independently, have difficulty sitting still and often won't learn from mistakes made. Behaviorally, these students are often non compliant and act impulsively.

What are the Best Practices for Supporting the Child with FAS?

1. Determine the student's areas of strengths and weaknesses.

2. Check the student's records to see what the recommendations are from the formal reports/assessments and involved personnel.

3. Talk with the parents to ensure you have all the appropriate background information.

4. Capitalize on the student's strengths as much as possible, observe the student's responses to activities and the interactions with others.

5. This student will require much of the same supports that you are providing your learning and behavioral disabled students with.

6. Patience! Working with FAS students takes a great deal of patience and empathy. Use a behavior plan with lots of positive feedback and a reward system.

7. Early intervention is key to ensuring success and minimizes some of the known impacts later in life (mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse)

8. This child needs a stable environment with routines and predictability. Consistent rules and expectations are critical.

9. Use positive feedback, frequent reminders and provide additional time for completion of tasks with appropriate supports to ease the frustration level.

10. This child needs your support and understanding. Make sure the IEP is appropriate and work with your team to make changes as needed.

Finally and most importantly, help this child with your dedication and patience.

See additional information on FAS.

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