Tips: Dating & Sexuality

tips-647_010617104706All persons are sexual beings and this doesn’t change just because someone has a FASD diagnosis. Individuals living with FASD have the right to express sexuality and affection and to all the information about sexuality he/she can understand. They will experience all the normal hormonal surges as any other developing young person, however, their social development and understanding may not match their biology.

Therefore it is important that we, whether caregivers, professionals, friends or family, are having open and honest conversations or we may be increasing their risk of engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviors and/or becoming, victims or perpetrators (or both). Below are some suggestions for how to prepare and have these conversations and what they should include. If you have more suggestions not mentioned here, please comment so others can learn from your experience!

1. There is no right or wrong person to have these conversations with them but someone should.

2. Get comfortable having the conversation. If they can’t talk to you, they will find someone to talk to about it. Talking about sex can be uncomfortable for many people, especially when it comes to having those conversations with our children (even if they’re adults!). If you’re uncomfortable though, they’ll be uncomfortable and you want to create an environment that allows them to speak openly and ask questions. Practice what you’ll say beforehand or roleplay the conversation with a friend or family member prior.

3. Practice things like how to shake hands, hug, and touch others respectfully.

4. Teach them to ask permission before touching.

5. Be internet savvy! There is a plethora of information online, not all of which is accurate or safe. Monitor what they are accessing on their phones/computers. Keep in mind however that, for teens and young adults especially, the internet is part of their social world and they will and should be taught how to do this safely.

6. Topics addressed should be appropriate for their chronological age but might include: body part identification, personal care and hygiene, healthy relationships, rights and responsibilities, assertiveness (right to say no for both parties), contraception and pregnancy (and options), childbirth, masturbation, sexual abuse/assault/harassment, puberty, menstruation, medical care.

7. Use specific, concrete language but also define common slang terms they may hear while with their peers. Making word charts with synonyms can be helpful to ensure the individual knows what is being talked about.

8. Discourage/cue inappropriate displays of affection and provide clear behavior expectations.

9. Provide clear descriptions of what is acceptable in private settings as opposed to public settings (eg. ‘making out’ in private vs. holding hands in public).

10. Allow them to practice with you, or someone else they can trust. Have them roleplay asking someone out on a date and receiving both a yes and no answer so they can learn how to respond appropriately to various, often unpredictable, scenarios.

11. Have them practice saying ‘yes’ outloud and waiting for the other person to say yes outloud as well. Verbal consent is more concrete and doesn’t require them to read social cues others might rely on.

12. Rules should be clear, simple and absolute. For example, teach that unprotected sex is never safe, always use a condom.

13. Provide age limits. Age of consent laws can be very confusing so giving concrete acceptable age ranges for who they can engage in sexual behavior with will help avoid conflicts.

14. Encourage multiple forms of protection in case one is used incorrectly or forgotten (e.g. birth control pills and condoms).

15. Provide concrete, hands-on demonstrations where available (e.g. how to put on a condom etc). Show them what birth control looks like, provide reminders/cues to take daily etc.

16. Depending on their age and ability, supervision is recommended. This does not always have to be you though – perhaps an older sibling or cousin could go on a double date with them.

Young people in detention facing significant communication barriers

Lead researcher Natalie Kippin

A study revealing significant levels of language difficulty among detainees at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre underscores the need for more support for young people trying to navigate the justice system, Telethon Kids Institute researchers say.

The research, published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, found many of the teenagers assessed as part of the study had language skills well below that expected for their age, with almost half meeting the criteria for language disorder. Much of the language disorder was associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

The research also revealed that language diversity was common, with Standard Australian English not the first or even second language for many of the young people.

Lead researcher Natalie Kippin, a speech pathologist with the Alcohol and Pregnancy & FASD research team at Telethon Kids, said these communication barriers meant many young people were going through highly verbal legal and rehabilitation processes at a significant disadvantage.

“Effective two-way communication skills are needed at all points of the justice system – from contact with police through to court appearances and programs in detention,” Ms Kippin said.

“A young person with language disorder and/or FASD can find it hard to comprehend and communicate effectively. Similarly, language diversity – not a disorder, but simply a difference in language – can pose significant barriers to understanding youth justice processes.

“If you’ve got kids who don’t understand what’s being said – particularly the complex vocabulary and grammar used in legal interviews and meetings – it’s difficult for them to understand expectations and comply with instructions.”

Young people with language disorder could also be less able to provide accurate and coherent explanations about alleged events or criminal behaviour.

“Legal interviews require story re-telling, and recalling and sequencing detailed events can be tricky for those with language disorder,” Ms Kippin said. “These young people may also have trouble participating in and benefiting from youth justice education and behaviour change programs.”

The study is a follow-on from the broader Banksia Hill project, which earlier this year revealed that almost 90 per cent of the young people assessed for the project had at least one form of severe neurodevelopmental impairment.

Click here for full article.

20 myths about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder debunked

Awareness of FASD is on the rise, but many parents and health professionals are yet to recognise the symptoms of the disorder, or the scale of the problem. Children from all backgrounds are affected, making this a hidden epidemic behind many behavioural and learning issues.

In July this year the Australian Psychological Society (APS) hosted a public lecture presented by Clinical Neuropsychologist Associate Professor Carmela Pestell. She addressed the top 20 myths related to FASD, with the main themes being prevalent diagnostic issues, information about drinking guidelines, why drinking is particularly harmful to the developing fetus, how we diagnose FASD, the symptoms of FASD and what we can do about it.

Read the transcript

FASD: Feeling and Emotions

nov16-10-hbr-marion-barraud-emotional-intelUnderstanding feelings and emotions is vital to good communication, but both are very abstract concepts. A child or youth with FASD may need concrete methods to help recognize what she is feeling. Therefore, teach emotions in a concrete way (e.g., smiling means happy.)

■ A “check-in” time for internal feelings will help in stating which feelings are physical and concrete.

■ After an outburst, talk about what your child felt during the meltdown; for example, a beating heart, sweaty hands, hot face. Attach the concrete feeling to the meltdown so she can begin to identify what feelings are connected to certain behaviours.

■ In order to be able to act appropriately to any emotion, your child must first have some way to recognize concretely what she is feeling. That feeling must then be named and “rules” for appropriate reaction to that feeling must be made.

■ Create a “feelings” dictionary, using line-drawings of complete stick men rather than just facial expressions for those most common feelings the child is likely to experience. A complete body can show more than just a face and is much easier for the child to associate with what he is feeling. Have one emotion per page.

■ Always name emotions very clearly. With teens and adults, name the emotion first and then follow with the words their friend’s use (“angry” vs. “pissed off”).

■ To encourage emotional expression, use a gingerbread man outline drawing and simple colour codes (e.g.,red for anger, blue for sad, yellow for happy, and gray for blank). Have your child colour on the gingerbread man where he has those feelings. This can give you a quick and immediate idea of the state of emotional health (e.g., red in the head and the hands is a good indicator of being ready to “lose it”; gray in the head and on the body is a good indication of being “shut down”). This will help, especially when the child is not able to verbalize her thoughts and feelings.

. ■ Once the feeling is identified correctly, have a simple plan to help the child. For instance: • “Losing it” – use calm down technique • Caregiver is “ticked off” – stand still, look at caregiver and listen • “Tired” – lie down and rest • “Frustrated” – have a list of physical activities that she can do and have her choose between two • “Angry” – express it physically in a previously identified acceptable and safe manner

A Classic, But Still Relevant: Strategies Not Solutions

The Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Network (EFAN) works to enhance the capacity of our community to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and address FASD related issues through coordination, education, support, and advocacy.

EFAN is a collaborative venture made up of individuals from numerous community agencies and government departments.

The Child and Youth Working Group within EFAN produced ‘FASD Strategies, Not Solutions’, a resource tool for caregivers and the community to work with the behaviours associated with FASD. This project relied heavily upon caregivers and professionals who have provided information, advice, and feedback during the development of this booklet.

Special thanks to Alberta Children’s Services for continued support in printing and distribution of the booklet.

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Click here to download the booklet!

Parenting with LOVE: Self-Compassion

Being kind to yourself is one of the best ways to teach your children self-compassion. Parenting with LOVE is an evidence-informed parenting program offered in the City of Hamilton.