The FASD Trust
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Undiagnosed FAS student - What to do?

Hello, I'm new to this site and I work in the UK as KS3 Learning Mentor at a reputable secondary school. I am working with a student whom I fear has FAS, based on the behaviors they are displaying. The school does not want to explore this possibility with the carers of the child for reasons which I understand. However, I am interested in learning information/strategies which could be of assistance to teachers. The negative behaviours the student is displaying are: a lack of empathy, forgetfulness, easily distracted, an inability to learn from punishments and low level disruption. The student's carers have been into school and are supportive so they are trying to uphold homework and reading routines at home. Any info would be greatly appreciated.



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Hi there. I'm delighted the school are being so supportive of helping this student. That's not always the case. The strategies that are helping our adopted daughter in school are:

- Keeping all the instructions for the activity up in a whiteboard so she can refer to it. Often people with FASD don't process the whole instruction and don't realise they're missing information. This can help them stay in track.

- Be aware that learning and information, especially with maths may not stick. They may get it one day only for it to go again. That can cause confusion amingst teacher's who think they're just being lazy. Revisiting early maths that may not have been stored is important.

- Keep sensory stimulation as low as possible. All the bright colours on the walls and noise in a classroom are overstimulating and can cause distraction and negative behaviour.

- Keep routine simple and clear. This really helps. Always give plenty of warning when there will be a change. Also keep to a school and parent agreed consequence for negative behaviour. Always the same reaction. Try and understand it's not usually deliberate but a symptom of the condition. It can feel like its deliberate and contrived which can be hard to understand at times. It can take a long time for the child to understand this though.

- watch for triggers to negative behaviour and try and minimise those.

- rewards often don't work due to the underdeveloped lack of empathy. You have to be able to care about something for a reward to really work. They may not fully understand why they've got the reward.

- often a child with FASD sounds more mature than they are which gives the impression they understand more than they do. Work on the basis that comprehension is half their chronological age. It's taken me 3 years to get my daughter's school to fully understand this as she scores highly in reading tests.

- OT and EdPsych assessments are key to helping them.

I'm sure there's more I could add but this is a start. I've worked in secondary schools and know how hard it is to keep consistency between teachers so it might be a challenge but it really helps.


Also be aware of something called a confabulation. It's where the person remembers things in the wrong way. They may think something has happened to them which happened to someone else. It's not lying. Also give plenty of time when asking for an explanation if you think something has happened. My daughter always lies as a first reaction. She doesn't mean to so I give her thinking time now before replying. An hour can give the stress hormones time to settle so they can access their thinking brain.


Hi, It's wonderful to have a teacher thinking outside of the diagnosis that has been given (FASD is often diagnosed as ADHD) or thinking of possible underlying causes for behaviour which on the face of it can just look like naughtiness.

I'm sure you'll get loads of helpful responses and will be able to find more on other threads. I just wanted to pop up to put in a piece of underpinning information which is helpful when considering strategies, and that is the reminder that FASD is a physical disability, it can look like a lack of emotional understanding or similar because it is a physical disability which has social symptoms. The physicality of this disability is in the brain, where bits can quite literally be missing or not be connected up, rendering them useless. One of the reasons reward/punishment systems rarely work is because often the cause-effect area of the brain is impacted by the condition. If you do not have the physical tools to understand cause-effect then no amount of practice or exposure is going to get you there.

Sometimes when a child presents with behaviour similar to that of a child with ADHD we go through all the strategies we would use with the child with ADHD, who may, if supported in small steps be able to develop the emotional skills required, but no amount of small stepping is going to help you develop a skill in a part of the brain that you do not have.

If you recognise that a handful of these strategies are not working it is time to throw out baby and bathwater and begin again from nothing, try something totally new. As you do this you will be on the forefront of learning how to support these children. And so when you find a strategy be sure to share it. Lots of people out there want to know!

Best wishes.


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FASD Trust run fasd in education training courses - go to;


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