FASD is a lifelong condition that affects brain structures, processes and functioning, and emotional regulation. Students with FASD can have strong visual memories, good verbal fluency, and high energy levels.
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FASD is the term used to describe the lifelong neurodevelopmental and/or physical impairments that can result when the prenatal brain is exposed to alcohol.
To support students with FASD to be successful learners, we need to understand FASD and how it can influence learning.
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FASD can affect individuals in varying degrees.
Family and experts describe FASD and how it affects different children.
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Primary behaviours reflect the underlying brain differences caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. They may include:
These are often defensive behaviours that develop over time as a result of frustration and repeated failure. They can lead to depression and mental health issues, and contribute to students disengaging from school and learning. Secondary behaviours may include:
Many characteristics associated with FASD are common to other conditions such as ASD or ADHD.
Behavioural patterns of people with FASD are consistently inconsistent. As a result of their brain injury, students may be hyperactive, easily distracted, and impulsive.
A learner with FASD may experience difficulty:
Confabulation is not lying. Damage to the function of the frontal lobes of the brain means that a child or young person with FASD may make things up that are not true. When they are confused or have forgotten what happened, they may say something that suits the situation or what they think is expected of them. They can have difficulty basing what they say on reality and checking it against evidence.
Memory is a neurological function that does not work well in children with FASD. They cannot make a decision about “next time” based on “what happened last time” and there are limits to how well they can process information.
Thought processes of a learner with FASD can be highly variable. There may be gaps in connections, and also clusters of connections leading to areas of strength.
Children and young people with FASD often experience difficulties dealing with information. They can find it hard to:
Executive functioning is the ability to plan and complete a task.
Students with FASD may need support to maintain or shift attention, organise, plan, process and memorise information, and understand consequences.
Learners with FASD often get tired more quickly than their peers. Their brain has to work harder and utilise more brain areas to concentrate on tasks their peers can do easily.
Students experience cognitive fatigue when a task is overwhelming or when expectations are set too high. Cognitive fatigue accumulates. Performance may deteriorate as the day progresses, or towards the end of the school week or term.
Without appropriate support and breaks, learners with FASD experiencing cognitive fatigue can exhibit:
Students may find it difficult to cope with the level of work and pressure that's put on them. This may present as difficult behaviours. Strategies for supporting behaviours must be informed by understanding the reasons for the behaviour.
Publisher: The Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC)
Publisher: University of Alberta Educational Psychology
Publisher: Ministry of Education | Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga
Read time: 38 min
Publisher: Attitude (NZ)
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“Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and learning”
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and
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