Friday, May 09, 2008

Nine Magic Keys to parenting children with FASD

On the FAS Alaska Fetal Alcohol Consultation and Training Services Website I discovered a very simple and clear outline for teachers to use when working with children who have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and in most cases any child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Written by Deb Evensen and Jan Lutke "The 8 Magic Keys: Developing Successful Interventions for Students with FAS" was one of the key resources I provided to the special education department for my daughter during her Individual Education Plan (IEP).

I have found that not only do teachers need something this simple and easy to read but, in order for these 8-Keys to work at school parents need to be thinking about these 8-keys as well. Home is the platform for our children and what they learn at home is the foundation. Please read: "The 8 Magic Keys: Developing Successful Interventions for Students with FAS" and then consider how these approaches might also help at home.

  • 1. Concrete--Children with FASD do much better when parents speak to them in concrete terms. Using words with double meanings, idioms, analogies or other abstract words. Many of our children have a social-emotional understanding far below their actual age, in fact some advice recommended is to expect 1/2 their chronological age, when considering their emotional level. As the article this blog is based on says, "It helps to "think younger" when providing assistance, giving instructions, etc."


  • 2. Consistency--Children with FASD often have difficulty trying to generalize experiences from one situation to another. The ideal environment for a child with FASD is one with few changes. Not only is it helpful to establish a consistent environment but, it is also important to establish consistent language. Words used with our children should be connected to a specific meaning. Key words key phases used with oral directions don't require our child to need time to process the meaning.


  • 3. Repetition--One major Hallmark for children with FASD includes chronic short term memory problems. Due to their disability they often forget even the things they would like to remember as often as new information they have been learning and not and yet retained for a period of time. Our children may need to be re-taught and re-taught, or hear the same words and information over and over in order for something to be stored to their long term memory.


  • 4. Routine--Children with FASD seem to thrive with stable and consistant routines because knowing what to expect "next" helps to decrease anxiety. When a child with FASD is not coping with anxiety they are physically more able to learn. Our children will also need less time to process transitions if the transitions are part of the routine.


  • 5. Simplicity--"Keep it Short and Sweet (KISS method)". Children with FASD can become easily over over-stimulated, some Pet Scans show that in order to accomplish the same tasks as an ordinary child our children require the use of areas scattered all over their brains. Where a normal health child might need to access one specific area of their brain to accomplish the same task the FASD child may need to fire up several areas of their brains. All of this extra brain power demand can lead to a "shutdown". When our child shuts down they can no longer assimilate any more information. Simple environment, simple language and simply repetitions is the core foundation for a child with FASD to thrive.


  • 6. Specific--People with FASD have difficulty with abstract thinking, generalizations, and are typically not able to "fill in the blanks." When parents say exactly what they mean using concrete language and words with specific meanings it makes it more possible to communicate with the person. We may need to tell our child step-by-step what to do and how to do it. We may need to re-do this and use the same words over and over, step-by-step in order for our child to retain the specific directions. Taking the time to do this with a child who has FASD in a major responsibility for parents an may help our child learn to develop appropriate habit patterns.


  • 7. Structure--I like the way the authors of the report this blog is based on said it, "Structure is the "glue" that makes the world make sense for a student with FAS." When this glue is absent everything can fall apart. When children with FASD experience success because they understood and did well because an environment with structure has been provided this success can develop into a permanent foundation.


  • 8. Supervision--Children with FASD face many struggles and cognitive challenges during their day to day lives which often results in a "naivete" about daily life situations. FASD children require constant, direct, supervision. Especially in social situations or those involving other children.


  • 9. Love--The original article this blog is based on didn't mention Love because it is written to educators. For parents of children with FASD Love is the 9th Magic Key. When we learn to accept the issues our child is dealing with and the fact that this is a life-time disability, caused by brain damage and it is not their faults... we can often go through the difficult times with less anxiety ourselves. When we understand that a child with FASD has the basic needs outlined in this blog and the article I referenced, then we can feel more at peace and under control when things are rough.


Parenting a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is as Diane Malbin calls it, "Trying Differently Rather Than Harder."

1 comment:

  1. Love this thank you so much for spelling it out 1-9. Sometimes we as parents need it that way too to help understand our little ones that are going through!

    ReplyDelete

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