Back to Graphic Version | SAMHSA News Home

SAMHSA News - January/February 2008, Volume 16, Number 1


FASD Resources Available

For Teachers in Elementary and Middle Schools

By Kristin Blank

Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) may encounter a lifetime of challenges. Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause physical, mental, behavioral, and learning disabilities (see SAMHSA News, July/August 2007). According to SAMHSA’s FASD Center for Excellence, FASD usually is not diagnosed until children enter school.

In order to help these children succeed, the Center developed a booklet for teachers called Reach to Teach: Educating Elementary and Middle School Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The 60-page booklet contains valuable information to promote understanding of FASD and its symptoms, as well as tools and strategies to enhance the child’s learning and communication between teachers and parents.

FASD in the Classroom

Learning disabilities that can result from FASD include problems processing information, difficulty with planning and organizing, and short-term memory disorders. Children with FASD often are contextual learners, meaning they can’t easily transfer information learned in one context to another.

In children with FASD, inconsistent performance is common. For example, material learned one day may be forgotten the next day, then remembered 2 or 3 days later—a frustrating pattern for students who are trying hard but not achieving consistent success. Teachers may think the child is purposefully misbehaving or is not paying attention.

Educators can help children diagnosed with FASD by using specific classroom strategies to assist learning. They should:

  • Structure a caring and consistent environment, because students with FASD learn better when guidelines for learning and behavior are clear and visible.

  • Shift attitudes and improve understanding of FASD. Think “This child can’t,” rather than “This child won’t,” and focus on strengths rather than struggles.

  • Learn to translate misbehavior, since what looks like inattention may be indicate confusion.

  • Change teaching style to be more concrete and specific.

  • Restructure the physical space in the classroom, such as keeping walls and bulletin boards uncluttered and providing a quiet corner to allow students to refocus.

  • Engage the whole school community by seeking out school-wide trainings on FASD, inviting parents to share their experiences, and encouraging teachers to share tips about what works in their classrooms.

The booklet also provides removable forms on which parents and teachers can write the child’s daily schedules to improve continuity between school and home. Another form allows parents and teachers to list the child’s particular strengths, challenges, and successful strategies as he or she moves from grade to grade.

Reach to Teach is available free of charge from SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD). Ask for inventory number SMA07-4222. For a free PDF copy, visit http://fascenter.samhsa.gov/documents/reach_to_teach_final_011107.pdf

Back to Top

Back to Graphic Version