While there is no “cure” for FASD, there are a variety of ways to support someone with FASD. Treatment here refers to the manner in which someone behaves toward or deals with someone or something.
It’s important to remember that FASD is a Spectrum. A spectrum is used to classify something, or suggest that it can be classified, in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme or opposite points. So keep in mind what works for one person, may not work for another.
The original source is the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and while the information is still relevant, there is some missing information, which is noted in each section. Please conduct your own research to make sure it is a fit for your family and talk to your health care provider or appropriate professional before undertaking any form of treatment, as information changes as new research is available.
Medical and Specialist Interventions
People with FASD have the same basic health and medical needs as people without FASD, but due to other health concerns or conditions may need to be monitored by additional specialists, The types of treatments needed will be different for each person and depend upon the person’s symptoms. There is recent research on the health of adults with FASD and co-occurring conditions, so stay tuned for more on these in future days.
The CDC suggests the following types of medical specialists might include:
- Primary care provider
- Mental health professionals
- Plastic surgeon
- Speech-language pathologist
- Occupational therapist
- Physical therapist
One area to keep in mind is occupational therapy – it isn’t just for young children. When the maiden was younger she was referred to an OT for balance issues, but it is so much more. I’m surprised that they did not hone in on her sensory issues and other lagging or under-developed skills.
Here are some areas OTs assess and teach:
For many with FASD, typical “counselling” or mental health care does not work unless adapted. Most therapy involves self-reflection and the ability to understand what is being said and to apply it to the situation. The maiden went to various social skills groups, and although understood at the moment, and could repeat what she learned, she didn’t always have to ability to transfer the knowledge into another situation – unless it was exactly the same. She has seen a few psychiatrists as well, who change her meds, but didn’t understand her so help was limited.
There will be more on mental health in the coming days.
While the CDC site says there are no medications specific for FASD (which may be true, but there is a Psychotropic Medication Algorithm for FASD which has been developed), there is a list of suggested types of medications that may be used.
This type of medication is used to treat symptoms such as hyperactivity, problems paying attention, poor impulse control, as well as other behavioural issues.
This type of medication is used to treat symptoms such as sad mood, loss of interest, sleep problems, school disruption, negativity, irritability, aggression, and anti-social behaviours.
This type of medication is used to treat symptoms such as aggression, anxiety, and certain other behaviour problems.
- Anti-anxiety drugs
This type of medication is used to treat symptoms of anxiety.
There is a day that will contain specific information on the Medication Algorithm for FASD including a study and results using choline (which is not mentioned on the CDC site).
Behavioural and Educational Therapy
Although there are many different types of therapy for children with developmental disabilities, only a few have been scientifically tested specifically for children with FASD. Following are behaviour and education therapies that have been shown to be effective for some children with FASD:
- Good Buddies – A children’s friendship training to teach individuals with an FASD appropriate social skills
- Families Moving Forward (FMF) program to provide support for families who deal with challenging FASD behaviours.
- Math Interactive Learning Experience (MILE) program to help with mathematics difficulty
- Parents and Children Together (PACT) is a neurocognitive habilitation program to improve self-regulation and executive function
Education, Training and Support for Caregivers
One area that we have control of, that can make a big difference, is understanding most of the “usual” parenting strategies do not work for our children.
Understanding FASD and how to support individuals with FASD is key. As is finding a support group (in person or virtual) and a larger circle of support.
Diane Malbin, a clinical social worker and founder of FASCETS, coined a phrase that has become a mantra for many parents: Try differently, not harder. We must learn to accommodate the child. Change our approach and reactions to change our child’s reactions. It sometimes takes a lot of detective work to uncover what is going on, but if you learn to think outside of the box and respond to what your child needs, not what you think he/she needs, you will save yourself (and your child) a lot of frustration.
Other caregivers I know have found Trust Based Relational Interventions (TBRI) and Ross Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving have been helpful. Most have to adapt as neither is specific for FASD.
We will go into more depth on the symptoms of FASD and parenting approaches as the days progress.
With any disability, injury, or medical condition, many untested therapies become known and are promoted by informal networks. These therapies are referred to as alternative treatments. Before starting such a treatment, check it out carefully, and talk to your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor will help you weigh the risks and benefits of these therapies.
Some of the alternative treatments listed on the CDC indicates are used for people with FASD include:
- Auditory training
- Relaxation therapy, visual imagery, and meditation (especially for sleep problems and anxiety)
- Creative art therapy
- Yoga and exercise
- Acupuncture and acupressure
- Massage, Reiki, and energy healing
- Vitamins, herbal supplements, and homeopathy
- Animal-assisted therapy
Another alternative therapy I have heard people say they use for themselves or children/teens is tapping. Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is noted as a stress relief technique. It is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology.
There is also an APP in development for adults with FASD.
While not meditation, mindfulness is suggested and endorsed by many. We tried mindfulness, on more than one occasion (see 1 Week 1 Goal: Meditate Daily for our experience as a family). We have tried different approaches and the maiden has participated in groups – but until one is ready for meditation or mindfulness it isn’t going to work. I think if we can get kids excited or interested early enough that helps. I suggest checking out three sites: Cosmic Yoga, Go Zen and Zones of Regulation.
For more information on today’s graphic, check out CDC Treatment Plans. Feel free to comment below if you’ve found approaches that work or did not work or have suggested websites or articles to share.
I remember the Adoption Worker told me one of the reasons I was chosen over two other applicants (both couples) was because she felt I was a very creative individual. Little did I know at the time how much that creativity would serve me over the coming years! I have read a lot, and been to many workshops, trainings and support groups. I try something, if it works I use it, if it doesn’t I tweak it or drop it and try something else. I try differently, not harder!
Stay tuned as we continue this 99-day journey with additional tips and strategies, including some days that expand on some of the areas above.