Back to School #2: FASD In Educational Settings. Part 1 – Simon Laplante
Simon Laplante is the Co-Chair of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee and the adoptive father of a courageous young woman who struggles daily with ARND. He has a master’s degree in education and did his thesis on the impact of children with FASD on parents’ relationships with the school, community, and each other.
Simon has been working in the Manitoba public school system for 30 years as a teacher, vice-principal, principal, and assistant superintendent. He is presently a professor at the Université de St-Boniface in the Faculty of Education. Simon’s areas of interest are educational leadership, second language learning, Aboriginal education, and FASD. Fully bilingual, Simon has been involved in public speaking engagements on FASD for the last 10 years in educational settings and provincial conferences.
Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
Let’s be honest! Some educators know very little about FASD. Many caregivers will testify to this lack of FASD awareness among teachers and educational leaders in general. It is not that people don’t care – they do! But caring and knowing how to work with students who have FASD are a world apart!
Students with FASD tend to do better in elementary school settings and struggle in secondary school settings. In fact, some high school students with FASD may not graduate. Some of the fundamental differences between elementary and secondary school are relationship and consistency. While in elementary school, a student with FASD will spend most of their day with the same teacher, forging trust and predictability. In secondary settings, going from one teacher to the other every hour or so, and having to adjust to different teaching styles and expectations, can be overwhelming for these students.
High schools need to really re-think their approaches when educating students with FASD to build stronger relationships and support educational success!
Educator and FAC member
Dorothy Reid is the Co-Chair of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee. She is also the owner of Reid Wellness Consulting, providing consultation and training to individuals and organizations on maintaining wellness. Dorothy previously worked with the Correctional System primarily in the area of mental health service development and delivery. She has extensive professional experience in working with individuals with FASD and other mental health concerns, and she has developed interventions for offenders with cognitive deficits. After obtaining a diagnosis of FASD for their two sons, Dorothy and her husband have been involved in the development of support groups for parent and caregivers of children with disabilities.
Dorothy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our last post on FASD and education, Simon Laplante hit the nail on the head when he discussed the difficulties transitioning from elementary to high school for many students with FASD.
In my experience with two sons, there was a world of difference in their educational experience. My oldest son was not diagnosed until he was 10 years old. Between grade 5 and grade 8, he was in three different schools as both we and the school administrators tried to find a program that could address his needs. His IQ was in the average range but he had ADHD and had experienced a lot of early childhood disruptions. When he hit high school, the demand for independence exceeded his capacity to self-regulate. He received no special supports and ended his high school experience after grade 9.
My youngest son was diagnosed at 4 years old. He worked with a speech and language therapist prior to school. He had an awesome kindergarten teacher who actually switched classes to be able to keep him in her class for the first three years of school. The school principals knew him. We had therapists and specialists who worked with the school to provide support to my son and his teachers. At the point of transition to high school, his teacher and principal met with us to discuss options. We all agreed that a specialized work skills/life skills program would be the most appropriate for him, so they worked hard to have him accepted in the program. They were successful, and our high school experience with him was totally different. He had the same teacher and teacher assistant for five years. Even though his IQ was in the border line range (you know, low enough to need help but too high to qualify for it), he was able to gain academic skills as well as social and employment skills.
Simon was right on target when he said that the relationship between the student and the educator is key. Knowledge, commitment, and options in education for students with FASD can make the difference between spectacular school failure and associated loss of self-worth, and the tremendous accomplishment of school success.
Family Advisory Committee
CanFASD Research Network