|Teachers :: 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:
Remember that the child’s central nervous system is easily over-stimulated. Interventions that help the child self-regulate and refocus his or her efforts will enable learning. Ask the child’s parents what cues to look for and how to bring the child back to a “steady state.” The parents know better than anyone what will help.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating children with FASD. However, we can offer you general tips and directions.
Here’s a chart to help you understand what a child with FASD is “saying” behind his or her actions.
The DVD FASD and Your Child: Cause, Effects and Interventions includes footage of special education teachers and public education teachers discussing classroom interventions that they use frequently.
Reduce stimulation. Provide a calm, quiet learning environment with few distractions. Limit chaos. Children with FASD do better with dimmed lights, few pictures on the walls, soft music, etc.
Provide structure and visual reinforcement. Use checklists and other visual cues to reinforce what you say and do. Physically point to items that you write on the board as you explain them.
Slow the pace; break instructions down. Tell the child exactly what materials are needed (crayons, etc.) before you start a learning activity. Talk about each step individually. A child with FASD will get lost after step 1 if you tell him or her all the steps for a task at once.
Provide lecture notes and tell the child what to write and what to listen for. A child with FASD will get lost within moments of trying to take notes. Require a highlighter and suggest important points to highlight. Also, avoid lengthy lectures. Break them up with demonstrations and other activities that reinforce what you’re teaching.
Don’t assume that the 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. Also, children with FASD don’t mentally “transfer” the routine for lining up to go to the playground as being the same routine for lining up to go to the lunchroom or school bus. Model this in more than one environment. Include reminders.
Use concrete methods for learning and reinforcement. Children with FASD can’t think in the abstract. Say exactly what you mean in giving instructions.
Catch the child being good. Reward good behavior. This is the most effective form of behavior modification in children with FASD. Praise the behavior. “Good girl” means nothing—but “Great job drawing those lines straight” will boost the child’s confidence, self-esteem and willingness to take on additional challenges.
Plan ahead for transitions. Tell the child ahead of time what he or she will do, in what order, and stick to that order. Practice the steps ahead of time, if possible.
Know the child’s cues. Learn to read body language when the child starts to get over-stimulated. Similarly, know what interventions help the child “cool down.” Warning signs of an impending “meltdown” are unique to each child. One may pull his hood over his head; another may bang the wall; another may pace. The Documents page of the Parents section contains a sample template that parents can use to share these things with you. Encourage the child’s parent to provide this for you.
Engage as many senses as possible to enable learning.
Think outside the box. What works with one child doesn’t work with another. What works one day for one child may not work the next day for the same child. It’s a matter of seeing what strategies will help that child make the best connections at that moment—to compensate for their brain’s “faulty wiring.”
Tap the parents for suggestions. Parents are in the business of “teaching” their child 24/7. They can give you tips of what works at home.
Think younger. The 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.
Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.
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.
For more details, see the Web Links and Downloads pages of this section.