So how do FASD caregivers get anywhere? Well, I did a lot of reading and a lot of on line research and I connected with a support group hosted at our local Children's Aid Society. The parents there were a goldmine of knowledge, an ear when we needed someone to vent to about latest lengthy waiting list, or least useful doctor's appointment. They were, and are still, the best source of practical knowledge on how to manage a certain behaviour, and why that behaviour was occurring. Peer to peer support was invaluable in managing parenting a child with this diagnosis. I also shudder to think how we might have figured any strategies out prior to the invention of Google.
For the last two month and a half I have been participating in a series of Webinars put on by SAMHSA and MOFAS. This is the final instalment of the series of posts about FASD.
The first post is here: Can You Drink Alcohol When Pregnant?
The second post is here: The Protective Factor of Diagnosis
The final webinar in this MOFAS FASD series highlighted numerous ideas for caregivers, education professionals and parents to children and youth living with an FASD. FASD is largely preventable and it is also the greatest known cause of developmental disability.
FASD is a public health epidemic. Prevention is incredibly important. But, what of the families who struggle to parent, educate or care for children with this complex diagnosis? Some children with FASD manage at school. Some blow out every educational situation they ever had. Many are homeschooled out of necessity. There is No Magic button for FASD. But, there are strategies. The trick is getting good at numerous strategies, because FASD is a wide spectrum and what works one day might not work the next.
Christopher Boys, assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School says it makes sense to have a "constellation of strategies that work." Alternate through as needed or combine and sometimes you just have to think out of the box.
Ten Strategies To Help a Child With FASD
1. Prepare them to Switch Subjects: Kids with FASD often have difficulty transitioning from activity to activity. Change is particularly difficult. So have numerous reminders in several different learning styles. You might have a visual schedule, coupled with cuing, coupled with a smart strategy asking the child to carry something heavy (lifting can be grounding) to a different room. There are also numerous sensory tools and toys that can help with transitions. What doesn't work is suddenly expecting someone with FASD to get off the computer when the bell rings and run outside with everyone else (that's a recipe for meltdown.)
2. Chunking of work material: Children with FASD very often tire faster than others. Some have difficulty with fine motor skills and some have trouble with hand eye coordination. Chunking work sheets into smaller amounts can help.
3. Frequent movement breaks: Attention deficits are common. Movement breaks help. One year a really clever educational assistant would have my daughter throw the basketball in the gymnasium about 10 times first thing in the morning before she made it into class to manage seat work.
4. Scribing: Some have difficulty with writing. It takes longer and their hands often fatigue quickly. So often scribing can help them to finish their work to an acceptable level. Although remember their work load may need to be reduced based on realistic educational goals.
5. Activity based learning: We taught my daughter the alphabet on a trampoline. She needed to jump to actively learn that skill.
6. Resistance work: Ripping paper, shredding paper, pushing something heavy. This often helps to give kids with FASD the muscle feedback they need. Row row row your boat with another person worked when she was smaller, at preschool age. Big bear hugs and crashing hugs also helped her to get the feedback she needed.
7. Gum. Gum and chewy tubes often help to keep kids with sensory issues focused and organized.
8. Engage in activities for a shorter amount of time. End on a successful note. Don't push it.
9. Adjust Your Expectations: When my daughter was little we often had plans. Let's take a drive to Kitchener to visit our relatives. Let's go shopping for X. Let's go browse the book store. We rapidly learned that she often couldn't manage that on a certain day. So one of us stayed home and kept the day calm. Pushing her into the situation would have meant a full meltdown which made everyone's day chaos.
10. Repetition: Kids with FASD can often learn but they also often require consistent repetition over a longer period of time than neuro-typical children. My daughter learns quickly sometimes and has great frustration when she doesn't. Repetition helped her gross motor skills to grow as well. Gross motor activities such as martial arts and dance can be useful helping over long periods of time to develop muscle memory.
Never underestimate the importance of supports when parenting a child with any special needs. Caregivers tending to children with this diagnosis can burn out fast and are often felt to be ostracized and isolated. Meltdowns and children who look 10 but act 5 can be difficult to understand in the social context. Seek a support group on line, or in person to help. Boys noted this can be crucial to the success of a family caring for a child with FASD.
This is the last in a series of posts on FASD here at Thrifty Momma's Tips. My blog has partnered with MOFAS and Brandfluential as part of a sponsored campaign to spread awareness about fetal alcohol syndrome prevention. Any topic matter that helps people better understand this disorder will always be close to my heart. When I write about FASD, I am better able to help my child. And I am better able to help the world around me understand and frame her behaviour.
What strategies have you learned to use if you parent a child with FASD? Don't forget to enter to win a $100 Gift card for Babies R Us.