FASD: Presumption of Competence

Written By R.J. Formanek – FASD Educator, Speaker
Red Shoes Rock and Flying With Broken Wings

Living on the FASD spectrum is much akin to the difference between a standard and an automatic transmission in vehicles. They both do basically the same thing, but each has to be considered, understood and operated differently. Yet you will never get cruise control with a standard transmission. However, my standard transmission brain does enable me to do some things that often lead others to expect more of me than I am actually capable of.

We call that the ‘presumption of competence’ and when people expect or even assume that we are all driving with automatic transmissions and those differences show up they can be rather extreme looking.

Expectations are not fulfilled, and that confuses the entire situation again.


I rely on my own personal support team to help me do the things that I either can’t do, or that cause me so much stress to do it’s not worth it.

One person can not really fill this role, it’s not fair to that person…but having a number of people who can ‘help out’ in certain areas can really be a huge step forward, and helps me be a better version of myself.

Our brains really are structured differently, and they operate differently. There is no getting around that, and try as we might we can not always fulfill those expectations when placed upon us.

Learning how one’s own brain actually functions, seeing where there are problems and where there are strengths is the first step for us. We then need to try and ‘explain’ to people close to us how to best work with our brains… because as owner operators we can tell people what works, and what does not. But we need to be cognizant and proactive ourselves to ‘reach out’ to the rest of the neurotypical population.

That’s not always easy, but we are all in this together, right?


In conclusion, presumption of competence can lead to unrealistic expectations and negative emotional responses. We need to communicate effectively with our team, and together we can all move forward in this life in an interdependent fashion.

Our brains are different, but that does not have to be a bad thing, we can be the spark that starts a whole new way of looking at things, we can change how the world sees itself, because we ARE different.

Take care of each other, the rest comes along one step at a time.

FASD is REAL and so am I: RJ

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