Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a life long, organic brain, whole body disability that affects approximately 4% of the Canadian population. This disability occurs when babies are exposed to alcohol through maternal consumption during pregnancy. There is no known safe time, no known safe kind, and no known safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women to consume. It is widely recommended that women abstain from all forms of alcohol while attempting to become pregnant and throughout their pregnancy. You cannot tell whether a person has an FASD as the “stereotypical” facial features associated with the disorder, thin upper lip, flatter groove between nose and upper lip, and smaller eye openings, occurs in less than 10% of the people diagnosed. This leaves 90% of individuals diagnosed with an FASD undetectable on sight, which is why FASD is known as a Hidden Disability. When a person can see that someone has challenges they often change how they respond to that person, such as speaking slower, adjusting height to get to their eye level, using simpler words, and only asking one question at a time, to name a few. However if you cannot detect challenges a person has by looking at them, you expect them to be able to “act their age”. With FASD that is not always possible. Communication Strategies to Use with Individuals with FASD
• Use the student’s name at the beginning of any verbal exchange to ensure he/she is paying attention.
• Keep language simple and concrete
• Keep language consistent – especially about rules and daily routines
• Be specific
• Avoid use of abstracts phrases and sarcasm.
• Speak slowly, allow for processing time
• Give a verbal or visual cue when you are giving and completing instructions.
• Use visual cues and schedules when appropriate.
The Northwest Central FASD Network has taken it upon themself to be a first contact point with regards to education, training and support for FASD. There are twelve FASD Networks in Alberta that we can connect organizations to. We will assist to the best of our ability through connection with local resources, information location, video conferencing, and remaining as a resource for all your FASD queries. We appreciate being invited to present, and/or train at any facilities or conferences free of charge.