Schools and Families Working Together
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Schools and Families Working Together

At this time, early in the 21st century, educators are struggling to understand and effectively deal with FASD and other brain-based disorders. Education and understanding is the key.  The concept of brain damage and FASD is almost universally very difficult to grasp.  FASD breaks the regular school (and parenting) “rules” and, as noted previously, it is absolutely normal for educators to need several in-service training opportunities before they will be able to “make the paradigm shift” necessary to be successful with FASD.

Currently, the parents of children diagnosed with FASD or strongly suspected of having FASD are the best source of expert information for educators on what their child needs to succeed.  So a strong, co-operative home-school link is invaluable to success with individual children with FASD in schools at this time.

It is well acknowledged that parents of children with FASD are usually highly stressed and may appear stressed themselves.  Living with a person with FASD tends to create family stress and health issues for other family members. To date parents have received very little understanding around FASD and many professionals think typical FASD behaviours result from poor parenting and nothing else. Nothing could be further from the truth. Parents will be your greatest ally if you show that you are working to understand and adapt to FASD.

Listen to the knowledgeable parent of a child with FASD – they are an invaluable help to a school. Work with the parent to prepare an All About Me document for that child. Many educators find that these documents are immediately helpful and easy to understand and use.

Click here for an ALL ABOUT ME DOCUMENT

The Home and School Partnership and FASD

Many parent have had a difficult time accessing services for their children.  In addition to the grief and loss reactions accompanying a diagnosis parents can often appear stressed and tired.  It is important for educators to acknowledge the hard work parents have put into the 24 hour job of parenting a child diagnosed under FASD.

Parents usually understand their child’s needs. It is helpful if teachers can be open to help from parents who may have a lot of FASD “expertise.” It is always wise to get off to a good start with good home-school communication & a team effort with parents of any student but it is particularly important if FASD is an element in the partnership between home and school.

Parents of children with FASD are the ultimate, 24 hour front-line workers and desperately need support from the school.  These parents may appear to be out of control themselves; they are almost all overwhelmed and super stressed. Professionals are often tempted to assume that (undiagnosed) FASD is the result of ineffective parenting and family dysfunction.  The family with FASD is often dysfunctional because one or more family members have FASD not the other way around.

Other parenting practices after birth DO NOT cause FASD

Most parents of children with FASD will be unable to control their behaviour with

“discipline” no matter how hard they try

Using old-fashioned “discipline” on children with FASD simply does not work!

Children diagnosed under FASD may be able to hold themselves together for the school day.  However, when children with FASD arrive home exhausted from school they often let down their guard “in a safe place” and parents siblings or family pets become victims of abuse from a completely “out of control” child.  When you, as an educator, hear stories like that from a well-informed parent, Think FASD First!

Educators should know that parents are often aware there is something different about how their child learns and behaves but don’t know what it is. Early school experiences are often the first time concerns are raised. These families should be encouraged to seek medical & psychological evaluation for FASD, especially if they are raising the issue themselves.  Identification prior to school entry is always best but early school identification is the next best alternative. When FASD is identified early in life studies clearly show that outcomes are better

Sometimes the school will suspect FASD before the family does. Then what should you do? First of all educators should remember to assess the situation and not to diagnose. Diagnosis of FASD is a complex multi-disciplinary medical process.  This website will equip you to assess a student but not to diagnose them.

Educators will find that talking to adoptive parents of children with potential FASD is a lot different than talking to life-giving or biological parents. One can ask an adoptive parent if there was pre-natal alcohol exposure but with a life-giving parent the discussion may need to take a very different track. If parents are complaining to you about suggestive problem behaviours at home suggest strategies NOT possible causes. If the FASD-friendly strategies that you suggest work then you may have an opportunity to extend the discussion and get that child the help they really need. This applies to children in adoptive and “ life-giving” family situations.

Since an involved parent or caregiver of a child with FASD is generally going to know a lot about FASD they should be considered as an “expert” and a valuable source of help.  They can be encouraged to make up an All About Me Document which explains their child’s particular challenges and strengths and the accommodations that they need the most. These should be updated every year as a child’s educators and the student’s needs and strengths change and develop.

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