Ownership is an abstract concept. How does a child know that a toy placed in a room with no one else around belongs to anyone? No one is sitting with it or around it, therefore, “It’s mine – I found it.” If there was another person in the room beside the toy, the child may have a better opportunity to “see” a concrete visual cue to reinforce the concept o ownership.
Stealing can be related to the lack of understanding of ownership over time and space for a child and youth with FASD. The child’s understanding may be that a specific person owns a specific object only as long as the person and the object are together.
“Taking” or “finding behaviour occurs when the child sees something they want and the visual cue (the person) that connects the object to the owner is absent.
When you have discovered that something has been taken, simply and calmly state, “This (description of item) belongs to …” And then return the item to the owner.
Be alert to new acquisitions.
Assign a colour or a symbol to each person in the home. For your child, use the colour or symbol to indicate what is their’s in terms of personal items (i.e toothbrush, comb…). The colour or symbol helps that child understand what is their’s and what is not while providing a visual rule (if your colour or symbol is not on it, it is not your’s and you need to put it back).
Avoid asking “why” questions, instead, ask “how” and “where”.
Supervision and redirection remain key to prevention!
Remember, it’s about trying differently not harder. If something does not work, try something else!