Article Summary #7: Self-Regulation Strategies in Adolescents with FASD

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This is a summary of the recent article Exploring Self-Regulation Strategy Used in Adolescents with FASD that is featured in CanFASD’s Top FASD Articles for 2020. For a complete understanding of the subject matter, we encourage you to read the full paper, not available open access.


FASD is a spectrum disorder, meaning each person is impacted differently and has different strengths and challenges. Some individuals experience challenges with self-regulation. In this study, self-regulation is defined as “an individual’s ability to recognize and adapt his/her response in order to engage in deliberate and thoughtful action while remaining attentive, inhibited, and emotionally appropriate for the situation or context.” Self-regulation is often challenging for people with FASD because it relies on executive functions that they commonly have difficulty with, such as learning, memory, language, attention, and cognitive flexibility.

Targeted interventions can lead to improvements in outcomes among children with FASD. The Alert Program is an intervention focused on self-regulation but was originally designed for children aged 8-12. Adolescence (aged 11 to 17) is a very important developmental period, but very little research has been conducted on self-regulation interventions for adolescents with FASD. The goal of the study was to explore the use of self-regulation strategies in adolescents with FASD. To do this, researchers recruited 27 adolescents between the ages of 11-17 through local FASD clinics in Edmonton and Vancouver and used a modified version of the Alert Program to teach adolescents about self-regulation strategies.


The researchers in this study found that:

  • Adolescents with FASD used both sensory (e.g. coloring, listening to music, exercises) and non-sensory strategies (e.g. discussions, card games) to regulate themselves at the beginning of each intervention session. 72% used sensory strategies, 22% used non sensory strategies, and 6% used both;
  • Participants increasingly reported using the strategies they learned in this program outside of the intervention sessions, the majority of time at school;
  • 96% of the participants reported having enjoyed the program;
  • 91% of participants reported learning things in the Alert Program that were helpful in their daily lives
  • The themes of increasing capacity, sharing knowledge, and connecting meaningfully emerged from a qualitative analysis of the participant’s experiences, highlighted the important components of this intervention program

Interventions focused on self-regulation for adolescents with FASD are very important but are not often available. The Adapted Alert Program was a successful self-regulation intervention program. Participants found the experience enjoyable and beneficial to their lives and many of them used the strategies they learned outside the program. However, these results should be interpreted and used with caution due to the small sample size. This research was important as it showed people with FASD can learn and use self-regulation strategies to succeed in their daily lives and it highlighted that we can engage adolescents with FASD in meaningful ways by co-creating strategies, building relationships, and tailoring interventions to each unique individual.

Journal: Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention

Authors: Aamena Kapasi, Jacqueline Pei, Kathryn Kryska, Vannesa Joly, Kamaldeep Gill, Sandra Thompson-Hodgetts, Kaitlyn McLachlan, Gail Andrew, and Carmen Rasmussen

Date: September 2020

Read the full article (not available open access)

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