|Parents :: Interventions
Effective interventions are based on knowing what lies underneath the person’s behavior or outward symptoms. If you haven’t already done so, we suggest reading these pages:
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating children with FASD. However, we can offer you general tips and directions.
General Tips for Home
FASD specialists Barbara Morse and Diane Malbin, along with many parents of children who have FASD, advise the following:
Provide structure, repetition, and visual reinforcement. Always follow the same steps for daily routines (getting ready to go to school, returning home from school, and any other routine). Use checklists and other visual cues to reinforce what you say and do.
Slow the pace; break instructions down. A child with FASD will get lost after step 1 if you give him or her six steps all at once.
Don’t assume that your child understands a rule even if he or she knows a rule. Understanding is quite different than being able to parrot back what you said. And, you need to model this in more than one environment. For example, here’s how to treat your siblings at home. Here’s [the same way] how to treat your classmates at school. Here’s [the same way] how to treat people you sit with at church, etc.
Use concrete methods for learning and reinforcement. Children with FASD can’t think in the abstract. Say exactly what you mean in giving instructions. And praise your child’s behavior. “Good girl” means nothing—but “Great job drawing those lines straight” will boost your child’s confidence, self-esteem and willingness to take on additional challenges.
Catch your child being good. Reward good behavior. This is the most effective form of behavior modification in children with FASD.
Be organized. For example, lay out clothes so the first thing your child picks up is the first thing he or she should put on. This kind of regimentation helps children with FASD stay on task.
Reduce stimulation. Limit chaos. Take a minimalist approach to the home. Dimmed lights are better tolerated than bright ones. No music or soft music is tolerated better than most popular music.
Plan ahead for transitions. This includes going from the home to the car, running errands, going to school or church, etc. Tell you child ahead of time what you’ll do, in what order, and stick to that order. When children come home from school, they need time to decompress. Plan for that transition. Don’t force homework upon them right away. A snack may come first, followed by _____.
Know your child’s cues. Learn to read their body language when they start to get over-stimulated. Similarly, know what interventions help them “cool down.” Some people report that chewing gum is a sensory fix that helps “reset” their child’s brain. Certain snacks may work the same way.
Engage as many senses as possible to enable learning.
Think outside the box. One mother reported that her children with FASD could finally learn their multiplication tables if they reviewed them while she cooked something that smelled really good to them (such as apple cider or chocolate pudding).
Think younger. Your child may be 8, but he or she has the emotional maturity of a person half his or her age. This “age gap” can become more pronounced as children get older.
Be patient. An unaffected child may learn something after being told 5 times. A child with FASD may need to hear it 50 times or more. You’re rebuilding the brain. It takes time.
Tips for Dealing with the School Setting
Many interventions you do at home also pertain to the school setting. School is often extremely frustrating for children with FASD. You may need to educate your child’s teacher (or the entire school) about your child’s needs and behaviors. FASD and Your Child: Cause, Effects, and Interventions includes a short program and a print piece you can share with others. Both can be used as a starting point in educating others about FASD and your child’s needs.
Ongoing, open communication with your child’s teacher is very important. In FASD and Your Child: Cause, Effects, and Interventions, special education teachers and public school teachers weigh in with communication tips and helpful interventions.
School and IEPs
An important yardstick for measuring progress in many students with FASD is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). By law, the school is required to invite you to be part of The Individualized Education Planning Team (IEPT). This is very important; the team reviews your child’s needs and develops your child’s IEP, if one is needed. Actively participate in developing this plan with your child’s teacher and the team.
The Web Links and Downloads page of this section includes tips for writing effective IEPs. Your child’s IEP should reflect his or her unique needs—as well as educational and behavioral objectives. The latter deserves special notice because of how your child is “wired.” Here are a few examples of items to include in an IEP that can improve your child’s behavioral readiness to learn:
- The natural “hubbub“ of the school setting can complicate learning. Your child needs outlets for “cooling down“ when over-stimulated. Here is a sample letter that you can give your child's teacher, detailing warning signs of a “meltdown” and your suggestions for helping your child self-regulate. Insist that these details be written into your child’s IEP.
- Your child may feel stressed frequently in the somewhat unpredictable school environment. Calling you on a school phone or cell phone can be a good way for your child to touch base and maintain a "steady state" during the day.
- Sensory integration dysfunction strategies can be incorporated into daily teaching techniques and your child's IEP.
Needs Change with Age
FASD manifests itself in different ways as a child grows. It helps to be able to anticipate these changes. Here’s a chart that summarizes what parents and health professionals have observed regarding FASD at different ages. Remember that your child is unique. No chart can completely represent the strengths and positive qualities of your child.