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Principles of management and successful interventions

Helping people with FASD and their families manage the associated difficulties requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach.

Parents and carers tell us that 'knowing about FASD' is not the same as 'understanding FASD'. This means to achieve positive outcomes, health and other professionals and service providers must be aware that systems and programs need to be modified to meet the needs of the person with FASD - not the other way around. To avoid mistakes in case planning and management, the use of a 'FASD lens' when developing strategies and supports based on each person's presenting strengths and difficulties is necessary.

Strengths-based approach

  • A strengths-based approach works from the basis of a child’s abilities, interests and positive attitudes. One of the key benefits of a comprehensive FASD assessment is that it provides detailed information on an individual’s strengths and difficulties across the 10 brain domains relevant to a FASD diagnosis.
  • Taking a strengths-based approach avoids defining an individual by their difficulties or impairments. While many clinical interventions focus on assisting with and overcoming particular impairments (e.g. speech or motor skills), a strength-based approach encourages competency and self-esteem gained through successes.

Family in partnership approach

A family in partnership approach for children and young people with FASD recognises the importance of: 

  • ensuring carers and families are central to planning and provision of supports and interventions throughout life from childhood, through adolescence and into adult life
  • building the capacity for carers and families to support the child or person with FASD
  • ensuring consistency in the child and young person’s environment between family, school and therapy settings

This approach also applies to adults living with FASD.

Changing our way of thinking or reframing our expectations

  • Behaviours of people with FASD are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. It is important to understand that people with FASD are often unable but not necessarily unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.
  • This is incredibly important for families and teachers to be able to make a shift in expectations and teaching and learning strategies.
  • Understanding the person with FASD is also important for professionals working in the justice sector, and to use this knowledge in their representation and care of clients and to apply this knowledge to inform decision making.

Effective, coordinated and consistent support and intervention

  • Be family focused across the life course
  • Build skills in areas of neurodevelopmental impairment
  • Ensure cultural security of Indigenous and ethnically diverse communities
  • Provide risk assessment/monitoring for children in out of home care

Life course approach

  • FASD is a lifelong disability and health professionals, families, educators, justice professionals, and service providers need to be aware of the impacts across the lifespan and better prepare for the transitions from each stage of development – through the early years, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
  • Health professionals particularly need to consider the impairments that may be seen at the various ages and conduct relevant assessments.

Supporting children living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Practice Principles

This Australian publication by McLean, McDougall and Russell provides a summary of what the authors consider are the key principles:

Knowledge and understanding as well as well-coordinated cross-sector initiatives are need to reduce the impact of FASD on children's lives.

  • Ask about the impact of parental alcohol exposure on chilren's development
  • Ensure children are supported by ongoing and specialised case management
  • Adapt services to accommodate children with 'brain based' barriers to service use
  • Reframe challenging behaviour as a 'brain based' difficulty
  • Ensure the environment is simplified, structurerand supervised
  • Teach (and reteach) children missing skills using enhanced methods

FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs

This Canadian publication by the College of New Caledonia also identifies principles for FASD informed practice.

  • An awareness that FASD (diagnosed and undiagnosed) is a reality for some participants
  • A strong theoretical and practical understanding of the traits, characteristics, barriers and needs of those affected by FASD
  • A willingness on the part of all staff including administration, reception and frontline workers,to participate in ongoing FASD education and training initiatives
  • Agency policies that accommodate the unique needs of individuals who live with FASD in an effort to make the program fit for participants
  • Reflective practice whereby staff are encouraged to work as a team to debrief and problem solve
  • Service providers use of an 'FASD lens' to develop strategies and supports on an individual basis according to each participant’s presenting behaviours and assets
  • Trusting relationships between participants and service providers,and a respectful and individualized approach to service delivery that recognizes participants’ strengths

Challenges and Hope

A look at the strengths, challenges and hopes for young Australians living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Michael and Lina's Story

Michael and Lina are children living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Australia. Learn about their challenges and their successes when they have the right supports in place.

Information and resources related to principles

Australian Guide to the diagnosis of FASD - online training modules

 Module 5 - Support and Intervention (Management principles)

NOFASD Australia

Individuals, parents and families

Australian FASD Support Groups

Find about more about FASD Support Groups in Australia