Supporting a child, young person or adult with FASD is extremely challenging. Experience has told us that typical management strategies often don’t work for people with FASD because they aren't able to learn or respond in the same way as typically developing children or adults do. Parenting is often more challenging because the majority of people with FASD don't look like they have a disability, so expectations are placed on them at school and in the community that often set them up for failure or frustration.
The key to success is establishing good support systems and accepting the reality of FASD and the limitations and restrictions that may be necessary to achieve and maintain success.
It's not always about parenting skills
Consultation with parents and carers has resulted in many expressing concern that they are told to do a parenting course – "we have successfully raised children but this child is different and doesn’t respond to these approaches, we need specific strategies to manage the child’s difficulties and behaviours".
It is important that everyone working with a person with FASD understands that behaviours can be modified and that the person is capable of learning, but this will require intensive support and will require more time. It often requires finding out what triggers a particular behaviour and finding alternative ways to get their needs met. Everything will take time, there will be challenges along the way, and you need to acknowledge and recognise the successes – small step by step.
While parents and carers can implement strategies at home, it is critically important that health professionals, teachers and service providers understand the strengths and difficulties of a person with FASD and work in partnership with the family.
Common difficulties and tips
Ten domains of neurodevelopment (the brain's neurological pathways that influence performance or functioning) are known to be affected by alcohol exposure in pregnancy. The following information links those 10 domains with common difficulties seen in people with FASD and tips for helping to improve skills and manage daily activities.
What is key to working with people with FASD?
Underpinning many of the strategies (home and school) are guidelines known as the Eight Magic Keys. These apply to the language we use, the way in which we teach, interact and work with a person with FASD.
6. Simplified language
A number of therapies enjoy popularity among parents and carers and while not all are supported by scientific evidence, anecdotally some parents report positive effects for their children. Before starting any of these treatments or changes to diet, check it out with your doctor.
Some of these therapies include:
- Relaxation, meditation and yoga
- Animal-assisted therapy
- FASD and diet