FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) are recognized as a group of conditions that may occur in children and adults whose mothers consumed alcohol during their pregnancy. The effects that FASD can have on the child vary from physical issues to problems relating to behavior and learning, so there is no one set definition for the disorder. People with the disorder are likely to have a mixture of these different problems. As you would expect, FASD is a very complex disorder to work with due to the variety of symptoms and different effects that the condition can have on the child.
A child with FASD may experience any of the following symptoms that can impact their learning:
● Poor coordination
● Hyperactive behavior
● Difficulty with attention
● Poor memory
● Difficulty in school (particularly mathematics)
● Speech and language delays
How Whytecliff Can Help Kids With FASD
Whytecliff offers the BC Ministry of Education accredited curriculum leading to a British Columbia Certificate of Graduation. Whytecliff also incorporates the new BC Curriculum’s intellectual, personal, and social-emotional proficiencies, with a special emphasis on youth development as well as positive mental health and wellness.
For children diagnosed with FASD, Whytecliff provides positive behavioral and emotional support in a subtle, gentle, patient way together with a practical individual education plan that maximizes each child’s ability to be successful. Central to empowering that success is understanding the physical, behavioral and cognitive challenges that children with FASD face. While these challenges can often appear as intentional or deliberate misconduct, we understand that children are doing the best they can; they are simply showing the degree of challenge they face and the skills they have. Creating success for children with FASD, then, is about decreasing whatever challenges each child faces and increasing their skills and resources.
We are particularly attuned to the needs of each child with FASD. We are proactive in providing each child with frequent breaks, providing careful and full listening with repeated instructions, providing the right amount of time for processing information, providing concrete examples, and meeting the need for private times and a quiet space for each child that chooses to be alone. Our staff are incredibly patient and take each day as fresh and new and try to help each child have a successful day.
At Whytecliff, children with FASD receive the care and attention they need in order to prosper. We are able to adjust children’s schedules to accommodate each child’s ability to attend and help them be successful; this allows them to progress academically at a rate that is in line with their personal readiness to learn.
For children with FASD, decreasing autonomic arousal (the ‘stress’ response) is especially important, and is central to developing greater self-awareness and self-regulation. To achieve a better balance of calm and energy, we encourage active upper-lower body and cardiovascular exercise; this increases the ‘space’ between the brain and body (improving self-awareness) and increases cerebral blood flow associated with executive brain functions (improving self-regulation). We also seek to build cooperative skills (and increase awareness of others) through providing active experiences in the community and through our warm sessions in activity groups as small as 5 or 6 students per staff member.
Among any group, children with FASD are the most likely to have had negative experiences with school. For that reason, we encourage learning experiences and activities that are humorous, playful and fun. Research demonstrates that enjoyable environments increase children’s permeability, opening them up to trying new things and making new connections. Positive emotions help children with FASD to increase their attentional bandwidth, shed negative emotions and behaviors, and develop fresh perspectives. We believe that as educators our role is to tap into children’s natural curiosity and help direct it towards healthy and positive paths. At the same time, we believe in maintaining positive relationships that allow each child to inform us of any particular emotional or other challenges on any particular day. This allows us to work together with each child and provide the emotional and practical support they need to be successful.
According to the National Association of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,
“Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual who is exposed to alcohol during the nine month prenatal period before birth. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.”