Start Accomodations Early
Think FASD First when behaviours indicate a neurobehavioral condition. This is unfortunate because students with FASD do not receive the compassionate understanding and effective interventions and supports that they desperately need early in life. Instead time is wasted trying to change the behaviours with sanctions and rewards which do not work. This approach almost always causes serious damage and everybody including the child is disappointed. Changing behaviour is virtually impossible because nobody “can’t fix” young children with FASD. Their brain damage is permanent and needs to be accommodated as soon as possible for the best long term results.
Educators are advised to put educational accommodations for FASD into effect as soon as they can if the evidence from behaviour points to FASD or a similar neurobehavioural condition. Thinking FASD First and creating supportive interventions should begin early.
The interventions and supports (Accommodations) that work for FASD will do no harm to any student and are essential to success with the student with FASD. This is a classic example of the educational adage, What is essential for some, works for all.
This simple Universal Design (UDL) principle ending the above paragraph refers to the broad strokes of successful interventions for FASD. They can make a teacher’s job simpler because they allow an educator to reach more children with the same strategies. It is fortunate that most experienced educators already know how to do all of these interventions which will be described in greater detail in Strategies for Success section of this website. These strategies make sense and most educators have a store of them that they use every day.
Experienced educators will also realize that while employing the above UDL principle they will also have to use differentiated instructional (DI) strategies to meet the discrete needs of most students and particularly those with FASD. There is a huge potential for success using Differentiated Instructional Strategies with students with FASD not the least of which is the growth in protective self-esteem that will result. Consider The Eight Magic Keys as a way to organize broad-based accommodations for students with FASD.
Using co-created criteria for assessment and evaluation of products from differentiated instructional strategies may also help an educator find the tasks that a student is most likely to be the proficient at performing. Finding and using these aptitudes will make your job as a teacher easier and should bolster the child’s self –esteem when he or she realizes she is going to get a good evaluation on a real assignment that he/she helped the teacher to develop. This is an accommodation with a double-barrelled payoff.
To further encourage educators to support children with FASD very early in their school years think about this: when little children who are turning a classroom upside down are supported and have their needs met they fit in better and take less time in the long run. A class works better when these special needs children feel happy, more comfortable and accepted at school. The short and long term benefits to getting things right (providing effective accommodations) early are enormous.
What about being fair?
Educators are often concerned about decreasing their educational expectations for students with FASD. They worry that making all of these accommodations for students who are brain-damaged is not “fair” to other students.
These concerns are addressed by the Ontario Ministry of Education in Education for All, The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students with Special Education Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6. (2005).
Belief 7: Fairness is not sameness.
Treating all children exactly the same means that children who need accommodations or modifications to the program in order to succeed will be disadvantaged. Some students require more or different support than others in order to work at a level appropriate to their abilities and needs. “
From Education for All – Ontario Ministry of Education – 2005 – p. 5