We’ve pulled together 3 programs and strategies from recent research that are designed to support students with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) to succeed in our education system.
1. Metacognitive Strategies
Research released in March of 2019 finds that “co-creation” of metacognitive strategies can be an effective approach to support learning and self-regulation in individuals with FASD. Known as “metacognitive training interventions”, this strategy teaches students to “think about their thinking”. This approach helps individuals with FASD to first understand what they want to learn, and secondly to identify and then use appropriate strategies to help them achieve that goal. Co-creation (essentially helping individuals with FASD identify what works for them) is a really important step in the process. By co-creating these metacognitive strategies, students were better able to then apply the strategies to future tasks.
Metacognitive strategies focus on the individual’s abilities and strengths rather than their challenges. This approach provides them with an opportunity to use and improve their skills, where other intervention strategies have typically focused on altering that individual’s environment. The authors of this research found that participants were able to create and use strategies such as clarifying directions, visualization, setting goals, positive self-talk, and deep breathing/relaxation in order to achieve their end goal. The findings suggest that encouraging students to use metacognitive strategies increased the individual’s autonomy and improved their self-regulation and attention.
2. Integrating FASD Programming
As part of a research program out of the University of Victoria, a computer game called Caribbean Quest was developed. It was designed specifically to improve the learning skills of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and FASD. Research looking at the impact of this game on attention and executive functioning in nine students with FASD found it to be a valuable intervention strategy to improve educational success for individuals with FASD.
Educators reported the Caribbean Quest program helped improve focus and attention and helped to develop confidence in students with FASD. Although the research results did not show significant changes, teachers reported improvement in working memory, behaviour regulation, metacognition, and overall executive functioning in their students.
3. Intentional, Reflective, and Assimilative Classroom Practices
Researchers have suggested that there are three basic principles educators need to follow in order to support a student with FASD. Their approach to education needs to be intentional, reflective, and assimilative.
Intentional – To be intentional is to choose your actions based on understanding. Teachers have to modify their programs and lessons to meet the complex needs of the student with FASD and match their environment. To do so they need to build a relationship with their student to understand their unique needs, abilities, and interests.
Reflective – The educator’s approach should provide them with the opportunity to evaluate their current practices and determine if their student has achieved their goals. They must take the time to reflect on which strategies have been successful in supporting the student towards their goals.
Assimilative – The educator’s approach should incorporate the practices they have learned from their reflection on their teaching, identifying the strategies that have been successful. They should now continue to implement similar strategies moving forward.
There are a number of resources available for educators who wish to increase their understanding of FASD and improve their educational approach towards students with FASD. Any individual working in the field of education who wants to learn more about FASD should take CanFASD’s online course FASD for School Staff. There are also a number of strategies that educators can implement to encourage success among students with FASD.