School is geared for the masses. If we want an inclusive society and promote education as a right, then students should be taught in a way that supports and accommodates their development. FASD is not recognized in our school system as a condition that qualifies for support, be that an Educational Assistant (EA) or Child and Youth Worker (CYW) or an appropriately accommodated lesson plan.
Another factor to improve outcomes is having what used to be called an “external brain” – someone to provide guidance and support. Many of the incidents and struggles my daughter experienced during school, which led to multiple school disruptions, could have been avoided if she was accommodated and assigned an EA or CYW to help her navigate school life.
One of the identified risk factors for adverse life outcomes are disrupted school placements (dsp). In the landmark study Ann Streissguth and other researchers identified 14% of children and 61% of adolescents had a DSP and experienced suspensions (53%), expulsion (29%) or dropping out (25%). For more information on this and the other factors, check out Day 63 of 99 Days to FASDay: Risk Factors for Adverse Life Outcomes.
I have written so much about our school experiences … if you search “school” , “education” or “disrupted school placements” on this site, you can find a list of articles posts.
Even an attempt at college – in a program for individuals with development disabilities – failed because they were not FASD informed. I have had some professionals tell me that professionals do not need to be FASD informed, but simply disability informed. While that may be okay for some areas, I still think professionals need a basic understanding of the unique differences of FASD. Our college experience is a perfect example. They were disability informed. Yet there were some factors that if they understood FASD the outcome may have been very different such as allowing me to explain what accommodations she required, not leaving her with a 2 hour free period in the middle of the day, not expecting the day to begin at 8 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., (among others).
Day 36 of 99 Days to FASDay: With Support Students can Succeed looked at the myth of a “plateau” and provided ideas for strategies and supports required and How to Create College Programs for Students with FASD was a recent paper published by a friend and advocate after interviewing caregivers and individuals with FASD.
In 2017 we had some excitement in our Province as Sophie Kiwala, a Member of Provincial Parliament introduced a Private Members Bill which would have amended our provincial Education Act to include FASD. However the Premier at the time, Kathleen Wynne, prorogued parliament before a second reading, was re-introduced but then was defeated in the next election. As an MPP, Kathleen Wynne did re-introduce a more robust and inclusive Bill this year (2020) and it passed First Reading.
Now as Bill 172 it passed Second Reading! It will go to a Standing Committee for further consideration. During the Committee stage the specific details of the Bill will be examined, and members of the public may be given the opportunity to appear as a witness or produce a written submission with thoughts on the Bill.
While this Bill is only for our Province, if it does pass, hopefully it will serve as an example and incentive and inspiration for other provinces and countries to follow suit.
2020 has added a new layer world-wide for learning. Many had to go virtual. Some remained in school in co-horts or had a combination of both. After being asked to teach at home, many families simply gave up on the educational system this year and decided to join those homeschooling, or unschooling. It has either been a difficult year for students with additional needs or a blessing to not have the demands. I am pretty sure my daughter would not have done well at virtual – in terms of keeping her attention – she would have been too worried about catching the virus for in class – but her mental health would have been preserved in a home or un schooled environment. It will be interesting to see how the return to education happens.
Despite my best advocacy efforts however while my daughter’s was in school, her FASD was not recognized as a disability requiring specific support and accommodations. This still seems to be a common theme for children world-wide. What a disservice to our children and to our communities for such a loss of potential. Despite some protentional in our province for change, all this is too late for my daughter, and every other student who has experience failure.
In 2020 my wish is still that FASD is recognized (and I will add soon) in the education system so others have a better school experience.