Day 36 of our 99 day journey and this myth is about plateau of learning. While research has suggested that skill levels for people with FASD vary (see graphic below), I believe Grade 4 (through my own experience with the maiden) is definitely when things began to “fall apart” at school for her.
After the shift from the primary grades of 1, 2 and 3, with FASD not recognized, and the teaching style not adapted sufficiently for her, it was a disaster in the making. The sad part is, despite all the challenges she had at school, she was always an eager learner. She always wanted to bring homework home – even if there was no homework assigned!
I have said it before, and I will say it again, as more is known about FASD, I sure hope the school systems get onboard and start providing the type of education our children deserve. Our communities are missing out on many of the gifts our children have to offer.
CanFASD put out a position paper in 2018: Current Strategies and Educational Supports for Students with FASD
Despite educational supports being available in most school systems, current educational strategies are often outdated, too generalized, and lack the accessible information teachers need to prepare ideal IPPs for students with FASD.
Moreover, Millar and colleagues observed that children with FASD who received insufficient supports were at risk for a number of secondary adverse outcomes, including dropping out of school, involvement with the criminal justice system, mental health issues, and substance use problems.
Additionally, community support is generally very poor for individuals with FASD and their caregivers, with many parents lacking the knowledge, understanding, and resources to handle the developmental disabilities associated with FASD.
Despite these inadequate resources, most diagnoses, supports, and interventions come from within school systems, strengthening the importance of improving and revising educational supports to enhance learning outcomes for students with FASD.
RECOMMENDATIONS (from the Issue Paper):
Based on current studies, the research evidence regarding supports, including teachers, aides, administration, and caregivers, demonstrates several effective improvements that can be made to enhance the learning opportunities of students with FASD.
- Early diagnosis is essential to acquire the proper tools and resources to meet the complex needs of individuals with FASD, and so all respective parties should play an active role in watching for these multifaceted symptoms.
- Improving functional assessments is required to optimize IPPs/IEPs, and psychologists should gather a more comprehensive overview of the student, individualizing the assessment, highlighting the strengths and skills of the student, and noting how to use and apply these strengths in the classroom setting.
- Psychoeducational reports should be shorter and filled with less technical jargon, following the C.L.E.A.R. approach to help teachers bridge the educational gap between reports and IPPs: (C) child-centered perspective; (L) link referral questions, assessment results, and recommendations; (E) enable the reader with concrete recommendations; (A) address strengths as well as weaknesses; and (R) readability.
- Teachers and other educational supports should be provided with the proper resources, education, and up-to-date training on FASD to ensure that they are equipped to make sound decisions on the best learning styles for individualized student program plans.
- Efforts should be made to encourage maximized curriculum delivery to students with FASD in classroom settings, considering the most effective roles of teaching staff. FASD trained and knowledgeable teachers should directly provide students with the proper curriculum in the classroom setting, while EAs should receive more FASD training and help facilitate the learning of the students who are more independent.
- Stronger communication and collaboration between psychologists, teachers, educational aides, parents, and the community will lead to a more enhanced IPP/IEP, as various levels of experience and expertise will be shared amongst all parties.
- An interdisciplinary team approach is best suited to meet the complex needs of individuals with FASD, and students are more likely to have consistent intervention planning and positive learning outcomes if they are continuously supported from all avenues.
- Allocating more educational resources and communicating more effectively with community supports will better prepare parents and guardians with an understanding of FASD.
- Parents and caregivers should have access to educational resources regarding FASD to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the disorder, and to better serve the unique needs of their child at home.6,20 Previous literature has alluded to successful parental adaptations of raising a child with FASD via understanding the disorder, and focusing on family integration, cooperation, and optimism, ultimately lowering parental stress levels and increasing family functioning.
Henceforth, educational supports do have the ability to enhance the learning outcomes of students with FASD, so long as current strategies are improved and revised to better suit the complex needs of the individual, equip teachers and educational assistants for individualized program planning, and implement constant communication. Attention should also be placed on educating parents and caregivers and increasing their awareness and understanding of FASD.
Check back tomorrow as we wrap up our week of Myths and Facts and move on to another road in our 99 day journey to FASDay!