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Unlocking opportunities for children with combined FASD and motor control difficulties: the importance of child participation

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Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and motor control difficulties may experience difficulties with many everyday activities at home and in school. According to a new study, exploring non-medical interventions for these children could help support them to participate in daily life. 

Cate Hilly, PhD Candidate from Australian Catholic University, explains how her research on children with combined FASD and motor coordination difficulties will help support them with everyday living. 

How FASD and motor skills difficulties pose barriers to everyday living 

Children with FASD may experience a wide range of difficulty when it comes to movement. Common motor skill impairments for children with FASD include balance, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. These key skills are used in everyday activities such as writing, participating in sports or physical play, getting dressed, having a shower, and more. 

The wide range of neurodevelopmental impairments children with FASD can experience, including additional difficulties with behaviour, emotional regulation, and adaptive functioning, mean that children with FASD often need additional interventions when it comes to participating in these everyday activities. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for people with FASD, so it important that research examines a wide range of intervention strategies and their effectiveness, to best support every child. 

Successful interventions for children with FASD

The research team examined 25 studies with over 700 participants to investigate the effectiveness of a range of non-medical interventions, looking at the impact of these therapies on areas such as learning, behaviour, and executive functioning. 

“We did not find any study that involved directly measuring children’s participation at home, school or the community. Also, no study asked children what was important to them, and their carers or teachers, about their daily participation.” 
- Cate Hilly, PhD Candidate from Australian Catholic University

Combining child skills training with caregiver and teacher capacity-building was the most effective way to provide support. Also, this intervention needs to be provided in the environments in which the children participate, such as the home, the school, or the community.

What is the CO-OP ApproachTM?

In all the studies analysed in this review, Ms Hilly and her team did not find any that asked for children’s input. 

Researchers are taking on an exciting challenge by trying out an evidence-based problem-solving approach called the “CO-OP ApproachTM.” This method supports children with FASD and coordination difficulties to develop useful thinking strategies, that will help them to take part in daily activities. By allowing children to choose what activities they want to do and come up with their own ways to solve problems, the CO-OP ApproachTM involves the child in the goal-setting process – an opportunity not offered by other intervention methods.

“[The CO-OP ApproachTM] will involve supporting children to identify their own activities that they want to do, which we call goals. They will practice these with myself and their carer, to work out their own problem-solving strategies to do these successfully.”
- Cate Hilly, PhD Candidate from Australian Catholic University

What this means for the future

The research conducted has several important implications. Firstly, it highlights how important it is to listen to what children with FASD and motor coordination difficulties want to do, and how they want to do it. Clinicians, educators, and parents/caregivers need to work together with children to collaboratively set goals and plan how to reach them.

The research team hopes to continue to raise awareness about the importance of participation-focused interventions for children with FASD, and encouraging clinicians and researchers to provide interventions in environments where children already participate, such as at home or at school. 

They also plan to conduct future trials to study the effectiveness of the CO-OP ApproachTM

More information

To find out more about interventions for children with FASD and motor control difficulties, you can read the publication.