The Good News about Students with FASD
FASD is not hopeless, because every student with FASD possesses some strong aptitudes and talents. ALL students with FASD have talents and abilities and the educator who can find these aptitudes and foster them will be well on the way to having success with that particular student with FASD. This is the proactive secret to success with students with FASD. Find out what they are good at and groom those aptitudes. The most difficult part of this task is to first get the brain-based behaviour settled down enough with educational accommodations to find an individual student’s talents and aptitudes. Or, in the words of Rick Hansen, “I am focusing on the 5 000 things I can do, instead of the 1 000 I can’t.”
Common talents and Aptitudes: All students with FASD have talents and aptitudes that, with support, they can share with the world. These talents and aptitudes may enable many students with FASD to make a living in adulthood and be self-supporting. Anecdotally (there is no research here yet) it appears that exposure to alcohol in pregnancy leaves some talents and aptitudes untouched and may even amplify some of them to an unusual level. This is a basis for real hope for success with students with FASD.
Common talents and aptitudes found in students with well-supported FASD include:
Ability to express themselves well verbally
Often good at art, music and/or poetry à the arts
Good long term visual memory
Good with animals and children (Supervision required)
Hands on learners àmechanics, computers & technology in general
Kinesthetic, energetic à competitive sports
Learn by doing and being shown repeatedly
Value fairness and can be rigidly moral
Comforted by rules and orderliness
Friendly, affectionate, loving, loyal, gentle, determined, sensitive and compassionate
This is the good news and reason to have hope. Starting from a position of strength in what they do well now is a basis for effective interventions and educational success. Fostering innate strengths and minimizing weaknesses is the basis of success for students with FASD. Success at what they do well has been shown to prevent defensive secondary behaviours in affected students.
The Specialist High Skill Major (SHSM) program in Ontario can be adapted for students with FASD. Some of the specialist areas that would be of particular relevance to some students with FASD include: Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Construction, Forestry, Health and Wellness, Horticulture and Landscaping, Hospitality and Tourism, Information and Communications Technology, Manufacturing, Sports and Transportation. These grade 11 and 12 courses can be chosen to focus on a particular student’s talents and interests.
Co-operative education programs are also a great advantage to well-supported students with FASD. Like the High Skill Majors program Co-op focuses on what a student is interested in and wants to explore or seeks to develop already existing talents. Go with what they are good at. Start from a position of strength.