For children with FASD, who experience deficits in behavioral and cognitive functioning, school can be a challenging environment. The social and emotional deficits seen in children with FASD also affect their ability to create positive relationships with teachers and peers. This study by Poth et al., 2014 looks at the experiences and impact of classroom practices for students with FASD, from the perspectives of teachers, allied professionals, and caregivers. The goal is to better understand how to adapt programming and teaching strategies to support the unique learning and developmental needs of students with FASD. Three themes identified are outlined below:
1) Understanding the whole student
- Getting to know the needs, abilities, and interests of the individual, rather than treating them based on pre-conceived ideas of the diagnosis
- One-on-one interactions between students, teachers, and allied professionals to build positive relationships
- Recognizing positive behaviors and strengths rather than focusing on negative traits
- Providing choices to encourage decision making and instill independence so that they are better prepared for life outside of school.
2) Responding within dynamic environments
- Fostering an inclusive atmosphere in the classroom
- Issue: There is a resistance to including students with FASD due to lack of understanding of their needs by teachers and administrative staff.
- Building home-school relationships between teachers and caregivers is important in keeping learning and behavior consistent
- Accessing individualized funding will impact the number of resources available to the student
- Implication: Having access to supports and services early will be more helpful for the child’s learning and development
3) Optimizing student-centered programming
- Educators, caregivers and allied professionals need to adapt to the resources available for their students with FASD, as well as advocate for further supports
- Individualized programming for students with FASD is vital for their personal success
- Educating community organizations on FASD in order to build appropriate resources for students
The findings from this study highlight the importance of being prepared to support students with FASD in the classroom and suggests a framework that focuses on the practice of teachers fostering the students’ social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Overall, the findings support a classroom approach that is intentional, reflective, and assimilative.
- Intentional – Modifying programming based on the complex needs of the student with FASD and their environment
- Reflective – Evaluating current practices, reflect on the achievements of student goals and why the goals were/were not achieved
- Assimilative – Acting on what was learned from reflection, to better adapt to the needs of the student
Positive outcomes for students with FASD can be achieved through understanding the whole student (not only their diagnosis), adapting to the student’s dynamic needs in their environment, and enhancing programming that supports the student’s learning and development. This must be collaborative work between educators, caregivers, and allied professionals, in order to ensure that students with FASD receive proper education and care.
Authors: Cheryl Poth, Jacqueline Pei, Jenelle M. Job, Katherine Wyper
Journal: The Teacher Educator