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Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and learning

http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/fasd/

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe the range of impairments that result from exposure to alcohol in the womb.

FASD is a lifelong condition that affects brain structures, processes and functioning, and emotional regulation. Students with FASD can have strong visual memories, good verbal fluency, and high energy levels.

This guide provides teachers with targeted strategies to meet the multi-faceted needs of students living with FASD.

Planned updates

Terminology describing FASD is currently in flux as health professionals adopt new criteria for diagnosis. The guide will be updated with new terminology, resources, and processes as they are developed.

Information about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

FASD is a brain injury that can result when the prenatal brain is exposed to alcohol. It may affect students’ learning in a range of ways. Students with FASD are likely to need support with processing information, planning and organisation, and self-management skills.

FASD is lifelong and often it is an invisible disability. A person with FASD will need support throughout each stage of their lives.

Source: Fetal Alcohol Network NZ

Suggestions and resources

FASD is a brain-based condition (video)
FASD describes a spectrum of disorders

To support students with FASD to be successful learners, we need to understand FASD and how it can influence learning.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

FASD is a brain-based condition
Alcohol and FASD

Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can lead to FASD

  • Alcohol crosses the placental barrier and negatively impacts on the developing baby.
  • Alcohol affects each developing brain differently based on the timing and amount of exposure. Any area of brain functioning can be affected.
  • The precise amount of alcohol required to produce an impact on the brain is unknown.

Source: Supporting students with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) – Learning guide module one: Part A

Alcohol and FASD
Relationships between age and ability (image)
A graphic showing the developmental ages and ability of an 18-year-old with FASD
Variability of skills and abilities

Students with FASD may demonstrate significant differences in competencies across a range of areas.

Teaching strategies need to be based on an assesment of students' skills and abilities, not based on assumptions related to age.

Source: Jodee Kulp - Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers (p. 25).

Relationships between age and ability
Why FASD can remain invisible (image)
The relationships between FASD and other conditions
Shared characteristics

Many characteristics associated with fetal alcohol exposure are common to other conditions, such as ASD or ADHD.

This can result in FASD remaining invisible.

Source: Taking action on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD): A discussion document (p. 7)

Why FASD can remain invisible

Resources and downloads

Engaging all learners: Supporting students with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Three short modules with accompanying videos explaining how alcohol affects the developing brain. Includes additional information on brain structure and brain function, and the brain and emotional regulation.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Strategies for learning, behaviour and communication

A literature review of FASD commissioned by the Ministry of Education.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

This New Zealand documentary from Attitude TV provides a window into the lives of children with FASD and their families.

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

WrapApplication

The WRaP Application has been designed to serve as an educational tool and resource for teachers and parents who work alongside students with FASD on a regular basis. Available in iTunes.

Engaging all learners – Module One: Prenatal alcohol exposure and the developing brain

This is the first of three modules supporting understanding of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It provides clear explanations of how prenatal alcohol exposure affects brain development.

Explaining the spectrum (video)
What FASD looks like

FASD can affect individuals in varying degrees.

Family and experts describe FASD and how it affects different children.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Mencap (UK)

Explaining the spectrum
Primary behaviour characteristics

Primary behaviour characterstics are those believed to reflect underlying brain differences and may include:

  • impulsivity
  • memory problems
  • slower processing pace
  • difficulty with abstracting and predicting skills.

 

Source: Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

Primary behaviour characteristics
Secondary behaviour characteristics

Secondary behaviours are often defensive behaviours that develop over time due to constant failure and frustration.

They can lead to depression and mental health issues and contribute to students disengaging from school and learning.

These include:

  • anxiety
  • frustration
  • depression
  • social problems
  • inappropriate behaviour.

With appropriate support, the risk of developing secondary behaviours is reduced.

Source: Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

Secondary behaviour characteristics
Confabulation versus lying

Damage to the function of the frontal lobes of the brain means that a person with FASD may make up things that are not true

Confabulation is not lying. It is a neurological condition due to faulty wiring in the brain.

The child with FASD can have trouble basing what they say on reality and checking it against the evidence.

When they have forgotten or are confused, they may say something that suits the situation or what they think is expected at the time.

Source: McGinn, V. (2013). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and confabulation

Confabulation versus lying
Processing information

Children and adults with FASD often experience difficulties dealing with information. They may find it hard to translate hearing into doing, thinking into saying, reading into speaking, or feelings into words.

They may have difficulty applying specific learning to new experiences or situations and perceiving similarities and differences. This means they may not be able to see patterns, predict events, or make judgments.

Students may find it difficult to cope with the level of work and pressure that’s put on them. When their threshold of function breaks down this may present as difficult behaviours.

Source: National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome–UK

Processing information

Resources and downloads

Know FASD: Alcohol in utero knowledge base

This resource describes how FASD may present in children at different ages.

Educating children and young people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Constructing personalised pathways to learning

This book explains the impact that FASD can have on the brain. It discusses overlapping and co-existing disorders and provides practical, tried-and-tested teaching and learning strategies, which can be used to construct personalised learning plans for students.

Cause and effect thinking

A student with FASD may experience difficulty:

  • understanding consequences
  • generalising behaviour from one setting to another
  • predicting outcomes of different behaviours in new settings
  • understanding what is fair – they often work within a rigid and egocentric notion of fairness.

Source: British Columbia – Ministry of Education

Cause and effect thinking
Inconsistent behaviour analogy

Behavioural patterns are consistently inconsistent

There are approximately 80–100 billion neurons in the brain that connect and act like roadways to transport information.

Prenatal alcohol exposure changes the efficiency of these roadways.

Roads that should be fast and direct (like a paved highway) can be slow and indirect like a rural, gravel road.

Module Three: The brain and emotional regulation video provides an explanation of the challenges that impede the brain’s ability to communicate, leading to inconsistent behaviour.

Inconsistent behaviour analogy
Social development (image)
“For the most part, he’s very mellow, very friendly. But it doesn’t take much. It’s out of the blue. All of a sudden he could be having a rage. Then he’s over it and has a hard time understanding why the kid he was fighting isn’t over it.” A mother talkin
Effects of social development and functioning

A student with FASD may experience difficulty:

  • understanding personal boundaries and ownership
  • perceiving social cues and rules, and the emotions of others
  • making and keeping friends.

They might be easily led by others.

Source: Reach to teach: Educating elementary and middle school children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (p.11)

Social development
Understanding behaviours (image)
Common behaviours and characteristics of students with FASD and how they can be misinterpreted
Interpreting behaviours we see

Strategies for supporting students must be informed by understanding the reasons for behaviours we see.

Common behaviours, misinterpretations and characteristics of students with FASD provides an accurate interpretation of behaviours you might see in students.

Source: Adapted from: Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Understanding behaviours

Resources and downloads

Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A comprehensive guide for pre-K–8 educators

Chapters 1–3 explain FASD. Chapters 4–6 explain neuropsychological and behaviour problems and provide useful strategies. Chapters 7–8 contain case studies and sample IEPs.

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Social skills

This explanation of the challenges students with FASD face developing social skills includes a series of practical suggestions for classroom teachers teaching these skills.

Common behaviours, misinterpretations and characteristics of students with FASD

This list of behaviours commonly exhibited by students with FASD indicates how these behaviours are often misinterpreted. It includes a guide on how to interpret these behaviours to inform teacher understanding and expectations of students.

Engaging all learners – Module two: Brain structure versus brain function

This is the second of three modules supporting understanding of FASD. It explores the difference between brain structure and brain function and provides educators with strategies for becoming active problem solvers.

Engaging all learners – Module three: The brain and emotional regulation

This is the third of three modules supporting understanding of FASD. It explores behavioural patterns and how prenatal exposure to alcohol impacts the brain's ability to regulate mood, emotion, and reactions to stress.

Variable thinking patterns (image)
brain2
Understanding FASD thought processes

FASD thought processes can be highly variable.

There may be gaps in connections, and also clusters of connections leading to areas of strength. 

Source: National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome-UK

Variable thinking patterns
Difficulty remembering

I have to write down everything in small steps or else I will forget how to do it. I used to get in trouble for cheating at school, but I wasn’t cheating – I just needed to look at my book to see how I did it before.

I just couldn’t memorise things the way the others did.

Student ;

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A comprehensive guide for pre K–8 educators (p. 46)

Difficulty remembering
Planning and completing tasks (video)
Supporting executive functioning

Executive functioning is the ability to plan and complete a task.

Students with FASD may need support to organise, plan, understand consequences, maintain and shift attention, and process and memorise data.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Planning and completing tasks
Cognitive fatigue

Students with FASD may not be able to concentrate for as long as their peers

Students with FASD often get tired much more quickly than their peers. This is because their brain has to work harder and utilise more brain areas to concentrate on tasks that their peers can do easily. It is often referred to as cognitive fatigue.

Students experience cognitive fatigue when a task is overwhelming or when expectations are set too high. Cognitive fatigue accumulates. The student’s performance may deteriorate as the day progresses, or toward the end of the school week or term.

Without appropriate support, students with FASD experiencing cognitive fatigue can exhibit behavioural problems, learning difficulties, and mood swings. Without appropriate time out the child may become irritable, unmotivated, muddled, or physically ill.

Source: Enquire: Education of children affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

Cognitive fatigue
Distractability (image)
Students in the gym
Students with FASD are often easily distracted

Students with FASD may be hyperactive, easily distracted, and impulsive.

This is a result of their brain injury.

Source: UFV FAST Club

Distractability

Resources and downloads

Executive functioning and the troubled brain

This blog post describes executive functioning in the brain in simple terms and relates it to FASD.

Relevance for students (image)
Students discuss a newspaper article about the effects of alcohol in pregnancy
Understand your students’ needs and experiences

Education about alcohol and its effects on the developing foetus is best provided in contexts relevant to your students.

Use interactive, student-centred teaching and learning strategies where students develop the knowledge and skills to make informed choices and minimise risk factors.

Source: Ministry of Education

Relevance for students
Whole-school approach

A positive whole-school approach to alcohol education, including and involving the wider school community, is important in shaping the values, attitudes, and behaviours of students.

This approach enhances student achievement, engagement, and retention and helps students feel they belong and are valued.

One-off events such as expos and presentations that focus on delivering information are less effective. They don’t take account of an individual student’s learning needs or particular school contexts.

Consult with the community and plan an approach that acknowledges culture and diversity.

Source: Alcohol and other drug education programmes – Guide for schools

Whole-school approach
The NZ Curriculum

Alcohol and other drug education in The New Zealand Curriculum

The cause and effects of FASD are an important part of alcohol and other drug (AoD) education. This sits primarily in the health and physical education learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum. As a context for learning it also has relevance for other areas such as the social sciences, English, and science.

Plan authentic learning experiences that are relevant to situations your students will face. Have students consider:

  • the messages they receive about alcohol through the media (advertising, film, social media), and to critically analyse how they affect their choices
  • FASD, its cause, and its effects on children and families
  • the role of alcohol in different cultures and situations
  • the effects of alcohol on their decisions and actions.

Source: Alcohol and other drug education programmes – Guide for schools

The NZ Curriculum
NCEA links

Health and physical education curriculum achievement standards

NCEA links
Alcohol and drug education programmes

Alcohol and other drug education programmes have an important and measurable educational role to play. They build knowledge and understanding and develop students’ skills to critically analyse messages about alcohol and other drugs.

Source: Ministry of Education: Alcohol and other drug education programmes – Guide for schools
Alcohol and drug education programmes

Resources and downloads

Alcohol and other drug education programmes – Guide for schools

This guide provides introductory information for New Zealand schools about alcohol and other drug education programmes.

Alcohol.org.nz

This website provides information, advice, research, and resources to help prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm and inspire New Zealanders to make better decisions about drinking alcohol.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

This resource provides information from the New Zealand Ministry of Health about how alcohol can harm unborn babies.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Prevention

This resource lists key information about preventing and understanding FASD. It includes four short videos from a social media campaign to prevent drinking during pregnancy.

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Identifying needs and strengths, and accessing support

Get to know your student. Identify their interests and strengths, and use these to inform planning. Take an evidence-based approach to identify where they need support. Work in partnership with the student, their whānau, and those with expertise and experience.

Every child and young person affected by FASD is different. Each will have unique strengths and face unique challenges. Begin by focusing on the strengths of the student.

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Sample learner profile (image)
Learner profile
Who am I?

A learner profile can be created in any format including:

  • a document with photos
  • a slide presentation
  • a video
  • a blog.

Source: Ministry of Education

Sample learner profile
Benefits of learner profiles

It’s useful to develop a profile of all your students, and to use this as the basis of a class profile.

A learner profile tells teachers about students. It sits alongside assessment data. It helps school staff build relationships with students and to understand things from a student perspective. This can inform planning, classroom layout, timetabling, and supports to enable students to participate and contribute in all classroom learning.

Developing a learner profile means your students can:

  • express who they are
  • address assumptions
  • express their aspirations
  • have a say in what goes on for them.

Senior students may prefer to just have a conversation. Take time to get the student’s views of what will support their learning.

Benefits of learner profiles
What to include in a learner profile

The purpose of a learner profile can be agreed by the student, their whānau, and the teacher

Depending on its purpose, a useful profile (whether an official document or simply an inquiry on your part) can include:

  1. significant people

  2. cultural connections and experiences

  3. languages spoken

  4. things the student is good at

  5. memorable life experiences

  6. how they like to unwind and relax

  7. likes and interests

  8. dislikes and things they avoid

  9. how they like to learn and what helps

  10. things that make it hard for them to learn

  11. what they do when they need help.

What to include in a learner profile
Surveying students

In the video Student Profiles, Canadian secondary teacher Naryn Searcy describes how she asks students about how they learn most effectively. She also asks students what is important to them beyond school.

She uses this information in her planning:

“I personally do a survey at the beginning of every class every semester, just everything from personal background to their history in the subject area to things they like to do outside of school, usually put a whole bunch of activities down there that we would potentially do in the class and ask them to rank it, you know – What would you enjoy doing? What would you not like doing?

So just to get an idea of who is in the classroom to begin with and what they would benefit, or what they want to see in the class, what would work for them.”

Source: Student Profiles – UDL supporting diversity in BC schools (Canada)

Surveying students
Connecting with parents and caregivers (video)
Seek and value parent/caregiver knowledge

Cooperation between parents, teachers, and community supports created a successful school experience for Alex.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Connecting with parents and caregivers

Resources and downloads

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Preparing to teach students with FAS/E

This resource includes practical steps and strategies for gathering information and preparing to teach students with FASD.

Essential tips

Ten tips for building a successful relationship and an environment to support a learner with FASD.

What educators need to know about FASD: Working together to educate children in Manitoba with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

This guide for teachers includes a description of FASD and strategies for supporting student learning and working with parents. These strategies may be helpful for students who are not diagnosed with FASD but who share some of the same learning needs.

Developing learner profiles

This document provides general support and guidance when developing a learner profile. It includes prompts and questions, along side purpose and benefits for students.

About me

This learner profile template is a companion to "Developing learner profiles". It is an interactive PDF with questions for students to answer.

Rachel's learner profile (NZ high school)

An example of a secondary student’s learner profile.

Laiza’s transition

An example of a primary school student’s learner profile, developed by the adults around her.

Parents are experts (video)
Learning from parents and whānau

A mother of a student with FASD talks about her son’s experience of school.

She describes his strengths, needs and approaches that will help.

 

No captions or transcript available

Source: rffada’s channel (Australia)

Parents are experts
Successful family-school partnerships

Successful partnerships are based on four principles

  1. Family empowerment –  Family empowerment through active decision-making must be an integral aspect of the partnership.
  2. Family-school interdependence – Home-school communication on a regular basis is vital. It is essential to consider the influence school and family contexts have on each other.
  3. Strength-based approach – Consider the student’s strengths in both school and home settings. The emphasis on a student’s strengths shows them in a positive light and provides a springboard to success.
  4. No-fault – no blame is placed on family or school. Parents/caregivers need support and compassion, not judgment and blame. Teaching a student with FASD has many challenges, and the teacher should not be blamed or feel guilty for not always getting it right.

When teachers believe parents want to be involved, actively seek parent involvement, and are comfortable as partners with parents, parent involvement in the child’s education increases.

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Successful family-school partnerships
Work as a team

Families are experts when it comes to their own children – they live with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week….[and] see different needs than those evident in a classroom.

Educators and parents must work together and learn from each other to develop consistent and comprehensive support for students with FASD.

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
Work as a team
Working with parents

Suggestions for working together with parents, caregivers, and whānau

  1. Communicate and share information in a meaningful way, demonstrating understanding and support for parents’ concerns.

  2. Value what parents and caregivers have noticed or assessments they have had done outside of school.

  3. Involve parents and caregivers in determining strategies to support student learning and well-being.

  4. Work with any programmes or materials they are using at home, to maximise consistency and support for the student.

  5. Develop systems for passing on information about a student’s needs, progress, and next steps in ways that are meaningful.

  6. Share information about out-of-school programmes (for example, classes or groups for music, art, or sport).

  7. Actively and regularly communicate positive information and achievements to the family.

  8. Maintain a positive non-judgemental approach.

  9. Offer to meet parents/caregivers at a location of their choosing.

  10. Continue to invite parents to meet even if they refuse or don’t respond. Suggest parents invite a family member or friend for support at meetings.

  11. Provide a single contact person at the school for parents.

Working with parents
Questions to ask

Connect with the family to understand the strengths and needs of the students

You may want to share these with parents/caregivers prior to an planning meeting.

Practical elements:

  • The language/s spoken at home.
  • Medications and allergies.
  • What they do to support learning.

Student’s likes and dislikes:

  • Likes, interests, what they’re good at (strengths), need help with, can do independently.
  • Dislikes, what can upset them, how they express this, calming skills.
  • Favourites (TV programmes, hobbies, books, songs, sports).

The people in the student’s life:

  • Parent and whānau hopes and priorities.
  • Important people in the student’s life.
  • Best methods and times to communicate with the family.
  • Professionals working with the family.
  • Questions they have and support they would like from school.
Questions to ask

Resources and downloads

Family/whānau file

A booklet published by the Ministry of Education to help parents of students with additional needs to brief their child’s school.

Hey teacher

This is a fact sheet with tips for teachers compiled by the Fetal Alcohol Network New Zealand.

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome – Appendix 1: Sample questions to discuss during a meeting with parents or guardians

This resource provides an extensive list of sample questions that teachers may find useful when establishing rapport with families.

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

This New Zealand documentary from Attitude TV provides a window into the lives of children with FASD and their families.

Gather information

Every child with FASD is unique. Their strengths and areas of need will be varied.

Gather information about your student from classroom observations. Include video observations so that they can be discussed with your support team.

Useful tools:

Gather information
Working as a team

Build an effective partnership with the learning support coordinator, RTLB, parents, and specialists such as occupational therapists.

  1. Ask about recommended resources and online communities.

  2. Work with your team to discuss strategies that will work for your student and provide you with support.

  3. Implement a strengths-based approach.

  4. Foster understanding of FASD to decrease secondary behaviours, such as mental health problems, frustration, and anxiety.

  5. Share your concerns and ask questions.

  6. Take an inquiry approach – discuss assessment approaches, evaluate assessment data together, and consider possible strategies.

  7. Meet together with the student and whānau and take a team approach to planning and providing support.

  8. Find out about staff members who have experience teaching students with FASD, or personal experience of FASD, who might be happy to advise you.

Working as a team
Using e-portfolios at Onslow College (NZ) (video)
Using e-portfolios to collaborate

John Robinson, HoD Learning Support, reflects on the impact of utilising digital technologies to share information with students.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Using e-portfolios at Onslow College (NZ)
Collaboration between professionals

A large part of the diagnostic process includes developing strategies and interventions specifically designed for the unique needs of the child, to help them learn successfully.

A report containing the assessment findings, medical diagnosis, and recommendations is available (with the consent of the legal guardian) to families, caregivers, and educators who work with the child. The assessment provides information about the child’s needs and allows interventions to be tailored to their strengths and challenges.

Because FASD is not routinely screened for in infancy and early childhood, many children with FASD remain undiagnosed when starting school. Most commonly diagnosis is made when the child is between 6–12 years old, and having learning or behaviour difficulties. Sometimes, the condition may never be diagnosed.

Collaboration between professionals
Utilising SMS to share data (NZ) (video)
Coordinating support

Secondary school students see several teachers each day.

Use your SMS to support coherent up-to-date information sharing, including student's action plans and IEPs.

 

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Utilising SMS to share data (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Jane – Grade 10

This short case study of a student with FASD includes an individual education plan developed to support the student.

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Understanding the needs of the FAS/E student

This account describes the differing needs of students with FASD and includes teaching strategies that support them.

Wellness Resiliency and Partnership (WRaP) Project

This is a report from a Canadian project that provides targeted support for students with FASD. The website includes tools and resources to support educators.

Teamwork – the 9th magic key

This video from the Canadian WRaP Project outlines the importance of teamwork in supporting a student with FASD.

Narrative assessment: A guide for teachers

A guide to support teachers to identify, broaden, and deepen understandings of what students can do and the progress that they make. Narrative assessment provides a rich picture of students’ skills, strengths, and learning support needs.

New Zealand organisations

Develop relationships with FASD networks and community partners

The Fetal Alcohol Network NZ provides support and advice for families.

New Zealand organisations
Support for students sitting NCEA exams

Special assessment conditions – NZQA grants entitlement to Special Assessment Conditions (SAC) so that approved candidates have access to assessment for national qualifications and fair assessment.

Applications are made by schools on the behalf of candidates. Entitlement for SAC is required for both internal and external NCEA assessments.

  • Identify student needs.
  • Submit an application for the student to NZQA Special Assessment Conditions team (SAC). This may include an application for a reader/writer and/or more time.
  • An educational psychologist can support the application with test results and give a fuller picture of the student’s strengths and needs. There is a cost involved.
Support for students sitting NCEA exams
Contacting your RTLB

The teacher’s role in identifying needs

Teachers play an important role in describing learning challenges for students and identifying triggers for student behaviour.

RTLBs can collaborate with the teacher to meet the learning and behaviour needs of the learner and they can assist with identifying strengths and next steps.

Parents are often aware that there is something different about the way their child behaves and learns but may not know exactly why that is. Early experiences in school are often the first time that specific concerns are raised.

Contacting your RTLB

Resources and downloads

Managing the special education grant: A handbook for schools

NZ schools are allocated the Special Education Grant to enable them to best meet the needs of their students. This handbook is a guide for schools on managing the grant.

Interim response fund (IRF)

A Ministry of Education fund available to keep students engaged in learning following a significantly challenging behavioural event. It gives funding for a short term response while a more comprehensive intervention plan is devised.

Students with special education needs

Information from the MInistry of Education about services and funding available for students when the need for additional learning supports is identified for learning, behaviour and/or social communication, vision, hearing, mobility, or communication needs.

Professionals without parachutes: Building communities of FASD best-practice to support differentiated learning in the classroom

This infographic listing the words of teachers who work with students with FASD helps readers to acknowledge negative feelings and to make efforts to shift them so that they can move forward in their teaching.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Strategies for learning, behaviour and communication

A literature review of FASD commissioned by the Ministry of Education.

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Supporting key areas of learning and wellbeing: sensory integration, relating to others, positive behaviour, numeracy and maths

Students with FASD may demonstrate significant differences in competencies across a range of areas. Provide personalised support based on ongoing assessment of needs.

Teachers who are knowledgeable and open to making adjustments to curriculum programs and learning spaces while maintaining high expectations, can produce great gains with children and young people living with FASD.

Source: Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

Suggestions and resources

Ask the student about their environment

Ask the student to describe everything in the classroom that they:

  • smell
  • see
  • hear
  • taste.

Use the information to guide your design of the environment.

Select strategies to reduce sensory overload.

Source: FASD strategies not solutions

Ask the student about their environment
Auditory strategies (image)
Student using headphones
Reduce overloading in busy or noisy environments

To support focus, offer ear protectors or headphones to filter out sounds.

Play soft music. Offer the option to the whole class or on a personal device.

Source: Paul Hamilton

Auditory strategies
Timetable adjustments

 Build flexibility and supports into the classroom environment

  1. Provide physical activity breaks throughout the day to increase engagement.

  2. Break up longer tasks with short relaxation breaks to give students opportunities to recharge and refocus.

  3. Timetable sitting still activities before morning tea and lunch breaks where students have been active.

  4. Include a Swiss ball or mini-tramp in the classroom environment. Movement assists concentration and can release tension.

  5. Regularly timetable activities that promote relaxation, such as singing.

Timetable adjustments
Calming spaces and quiet zones (image)
Quiet spaces in the classroom
Support self-regulation

Make a calming space available to students when they are overwhelmed by sensory stimuli. 

Support students on how to use this space.

Emphasise it is not a time out or punishment.

What educators need to know about FASD pp 13-14.

Source: Ministry of Education

Calming spaces and quiet zones
Provide sensory supports

Provide students with a sensory support to help them with calming down

Useful sensory support will vary from student to student. It could be:

  • looking at a book
  • paper and pencils to draw or doodle
  • music or soft soothing sounds to listen to
  • a hand-held toy to manipulate, or a slow moving oil and water toy to watch
  • a weighted blanket or warm fleece blanket
  • a deep back massage or squeezing hands or feet can be soothing for some children.

Talk with your student, and ask your occupational therapist for some safe and appropriate suggestions for calming the nervous system.

Source: What educators need to know about FASD: Working together to educate children in Manitoba with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Provide sensory supports

Resources and downloads

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Education strategies

This handbook supports teachers working with students who have FASD. It contains information to help identify students having difficulties, and strategies to support these students.

What educators need to know about FASD: Working together to educate children in Manitoba with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

This guide for teachers includes a description of FASD and strategies for supporting student learning and working with parents. These strategies may be helpful for students who are not diagnosed with FASD but who share some of the same learning needs.

Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

This practical education resource is designed to support school leaders and teachers, and the broader school community to recognise, understand and work effectively with students living with FASD.

FASD: Strategies not solutions

This booklet for caregivers and professionals who work with children and youth affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder provides strategies and suggestions for considering their sensory and behaviour needs and life skills.

Social stories and scripts (video)
Teaching and practising specific skills

Create multiple opportunities for students to practise how to communicate and manage themselves in social situations.

Repetition will help embed them and build confidence and understanding.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Social stories and scripts
Targeted social-skills teaching

A student with FASD may be able to tell you the steps for a skill but that does not mean they understand it. It is important they practise them. Teaching steps:

  1. Identify the skill to focus on – keep it simple.

  2. Teach, review, reteach – use a range of techniques, for example, social stories, structured stories.

  3. Model and role-play – practise in real-life settings.

  4. Provide feedback, reminders, and supervision.

  5. Transition from a structured teaching session to everyday situations with supervision.

  6. Make certain that the student with FASD has someone to check with if they forget what to do.

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Targeted social-skills teaching
Buddy system

Use a buddy system at break and lunchtimes to provide companionship and support.

Buddy systems can be used to promote interactions that support students to learn social skills. Provide buddies with training on how to help students develop specific skills, such as joining in a game.

Set up your system to provide a group of buddies. This gives the student with FASD exposure to a range of peers and ensures buddies are not overwhelmed.

Provide supervised activities or games at break and lunchtimes for students to join with or without a buddy.

Buddy system
Respecting personal boundaries

Teach students about personal space and appropriate distances from others.

  1. Be very specific, using visual and kinesthetic cues.

  2. Practise in real-life settings.

  3. Explain and role-play appropriate and inappropriate touching.

  4. Put tape around the floor of each child’s desk so that other children know not to enter another student’s space without their expressed permission. This sets the stage for understanding personal boundaries.

  5. Explain and demonstrate boundaries for the teacher’s desk and equipment.

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Respecting personal boundaries
Respecting other people’s property

Teach the concept of ownership by marking each student’s possessions (this includes bags, equipment, and books) with a symbol that stands for that person alone. If that possession does not have the student’s symbol (or name) on it, it does not belong to the student.

Teach children how to ask to borrow something and have them practise the words they can use. These words can become part of the school rules. When each class uses the same words, students with FASD do not have to generalise in order to comply with the rule.

Source: Making a Difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Respecting other people’s property

Resources and downloads

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Social skills

This explanation of the challenges students with FASD face developing social skills includes a series of practical suggestions for classroom teachers teaching these skills.

Dan Dubovsky – Strategies for improving outcomes

In this video FASD specialist, Dan Dubrovsky, talks about how role-play helps students prepare for different situations.

WrapApplication

The WRaP Application has been designed to serve as an educational tool and resource for teachers and parents who work alongside students with FASD on a regular basis. Available in iTunes.

Building relationships to support learning and wellbeing

This strategy from the Behaviour and Learning guide on the Inclusive Education website provides useful suggestions and resources for building and strengthening peer relationships.

Supporting positive peer relationships in the classroom

This guide focuses on supporting relationships between students to develop their sense of belonging and wellbeing and to improve their learning outcomes. It outlines whole-class and small-group strategies that support students to build relationships and work successfully with others.

Using a Stress-o-Meter (image)
A graph indicating a stress scale
Self-managing stress

Discuss with the student what each stage feels like. Start at 5.

Identify the tipping point and what could come before it, for example, music in a calming space.

Share with all student's teachers and peers.

Source: Adapted by Kathryn Whitaker from “The Incredible Five-Point Scale” by Kari Buron Dunn and Mitzi Curtis. 3/2008

Using a Stress-o-Meter
Focus on student's interests (image)
Copy of Copy of DSC 0239
The two by ten strategy

For two minutes daily, 10 days in a row, talk to the student about their interests.

Research shows this will have a positive impact on the student’s communication and self management and also their peers.

For more information, scroll to strategy 2: Implement the two by ten strategy.

Source: Ministry of Education

Focus on student's interests
Identify the student’s goal

All behaviour is communication: it is goal-oriented, functional and serves a purpose

“If I am unhappy, unfriendly or difficult this will be because I am confused, frustrated, tired or angry. Please take the time to understand me.”

– Student with FASD

Determine:

  • what the student’s goal is
  • what may be obstructing them
  • how to capitalise on their strengths to help them reach their objective.
Identify the student’s goal
Role-play to support understanding

One student regularly had difficulty in the cafeteria. He was suspended on numerous occasions for breaking the cafeteria rules.

When he was asked to tell someone the rules, he could state them.

When he was asked to demonstrate he understood them, he became teary-eyed. He did not know where to sit or what to do with his tray.

The counselor helped him to role-play different cafeteria scenarios and showed him where to sit and where to get his tray. Then she took photos of him doing things the correct way in the cafeteria so he would have them as a reference.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators (p. 48)
Role-play to support understanding
Maintain predictable environments (video)
Enabling consistency

Students with FASD are more comfortable in predictable environments.

In partnership with parents, whānau and other teachers, establish how to stay on the same page and support coherent approaches.

No captions or transcript available

Source: WrAP Schools (Canada)

Maintain predictable environments

Resources and downloads

Reach to teach: Educating elementary and middle school children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This booklet contains information about FASD and classroom strategies to support learning.

Nathan Ory – Dealing with stealing

In this video Nathan Ory talks about strategies and approaches that can be used when students steal.

Nathan Ory – Why typical behavioural approaches may not work

In this video Nathan Ory talks about why typical behavioural approaches may not work and provides ideas on how to make your interventions more effective.

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Social skills

This explanation of the challenges students with FASD face developing social skills includes a series of practical suggestions for classroom teachers teaching these skills.

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A comprehensive guide for pre-K–8 educators

Chapters 1–3 explain FASD. Chapters 4–6 explain neuropsychological and behaviour problems and provide useful strategies. Chapters 7–8 contain case studies and sample IEPs.

Professionals without parachutes: Brain not blame tip sheet

This tips sheet helps teachers to understand the behaviours of a student with FASD and to move away from deficit thinking.

Behaviour and learning

This inclusive education guide examines matching the learning environment and its design to student learning needs, interests, and strengths. It also examines student expression, the impact of adult responses, and ways to support student self-advocacy and self-regulation.

PB4L Restorative practice

PB4L Restorative practice is based on a set of best practice tools and techniques to support a consistent and sustainable approach to managing positive, respectful relationships within the school.

Use consistent terms

Mathematics has its own vocabulary.

As students with FASD often have difficulty generalising their learning, use consistent language for all concepts.

For example, avoid using both “nought” and “zero” interchangably.

Keep in mind that each time a component changes, for a student with FASD, it is likely to be new learning. 

Source: Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

Use consistent terms
Extend opportunities to build understanding
  1. Make provision for learning to take place at a slower pace.

  2. Provide multiple interactive opportunities for students to engage with new ideas and concepts.

  3. Offer opportunities to talk through mathematical processes and problems.

  4. Provide access to video and online examples of maths processes that allow students to revisit the steps involved as often as necessary.

  5. Support students to decode stories by focussing on one aspect at a time.

  6. Use familiar names and scenarios so that there is less decoding.

  7. Provide visuals to support understanding.

  8. Offer extra time and access to adult or peer support when required.

  9. Provide extended time on tests and assignments.

  10. Be alert to the possibility of students freezing under the pressure of having to work quickly in timed tests.

Extend opportunities to build understanding
Concrete concepts

Making abstract concepts concrete

  1. Demonstrate a concept, show rather than tell, and be prepared to repeat the demonstration or instruction.

  2. Provide concrete examples of abstract concepts, for example use an abacus for demonstrating place value, and real objects for counting in sequence.

  3. Use digital technologies to provide visual representation of number rules and mathematical concepts.

  4. Online learning games may work well because they are repetitive and visual and provide immediate feedback, coupled with a hands-on learning experience.

  5. Use vertical number lines instead of horizontal number lines so students can see that adding results in numbers going up and subtracting results in numbers going down.

  6. Older students may need to continue using number lines and concrete manipulatives.

  7. Plan physical activities involving mathematical concepts such as number, positional language, colour, and shape, as movement can aid memory retention.

Source: Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

Concrete concepts
Supports for independence
  1. Design resources and worksheets with fewer problems and lots of white space. Enlarge the font size and spacing of the questions.

  2. Avoid mixing addition and subtraction or multiplication and division problems on the same page. Ensure that the operation symbol is in large and bold type.

  3. Use a highlighter to help students follow instructions, such as where to start and where to stop.

  4. Graph paper can help students to line up digits more easily.

  5. Make mathematical process cards by highlighting examples of mathematical processes (for example, multiplication, division, and subtraction) broken down in a step-by-step process for the student to refer to as reminders.

  6. Allow students to use a calculator for basic computations.

  7. Use online activities to support practise and repetition.

  8. Allow students to present work in ways they can do independently.

Source: Adapted from Reach to teach (pp. 25–26)

Supports for independence
Reinforce and repeat (image)
Basic facts online game
Using online games

Students may need to practise maths facts daily throughout the school year for the facts to become embedded in their memory.

Mrs Dunn Maths is a site supporting Tamaki College students.

Source: nist6dh

Reinforce and repeat

Resources and downloads

Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A resource for teachers

This practical education resource is designed to support school leaders and teachers, and the broader school community to recognise, understand and work effectively with students living with FASD.

Teaching students with fetal alcohol syndrome: Mathematical skills

This resource explains difficulties students with FASD may face and practical strategies for supporting their maths learning.

WrapApplication

The WRaP Application has been designed to serve as an educational tool and resource for teachers and parents who work alongside students with FASD on a regular basis. Available in iTunes.

Back to top

Creating an inclusive learning environment that supports students with FASD in years 1–6

Consider how your classroom feels and works for students who have FASD. Take a Universal Design for Learning approach and include from the outset teaching approaches and a classroom layout that will support students with FASD. Work closely with SENCOs, RTLB and whānau.

I cannot change the way I was born, but you can help make my environment be a place where I can achieve success.

Source: Fetal Alcohol Network NZ

Suggestions and resources

Classroom layout (NZ) (video)
Supporting students’ learning and wellbeing

Justine Henderson, Learning Support Coordinator at Berhampore School, explains how the classroom layout is used flexibly to respond to the varying needs of all students.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Classroom layout (NZ)
Structure in a flexible space (video)
Classroom structures supporting learners with FASD

Set up your environment to minimise students' cognitive load.

Providing support for students' specific needs enables them to work more independently.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Structure in a flexible space
Structure and consistent routines (video)
Help students predict what comes next

“External structure is like a handrail on a slippery ramp. Using the handrail you can walk up the ramp easily.

Without the handrail, you might eventually get up, but it will take much longer and be much more difficult.”

No captions or transcript available

Source: WrAP Schools (Canada)

Structure and consistent routines
Minimise distractions

A calm environment supports attention and provides a sense of security

Designing a well-organised and highly structured classroom will minimise the impact of demands to process and interpret new information.

Aim for a sense of calm, order, and organisation in your classroom.

Minimise auditory and visual distractions to maximise learning.

This approach will help diminish the confusion and frustration many students with FASD experience, and maximises their ability to focus on the task at hand.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Minimise distractions
Agree guidelines for behaviour

Develop a class treaty/norms/rules with the students

  1. Use clear, concrete language.

  2. Agree on 3–4 positively stated rules.

  3. Display the classroom rules.

  4. Use picture cues.

  5. Review rules regularly with the class.

  6. Role-play classroom rules.

  7. Use consistent vocabulary when teaching and reinforcing rules.

  8. Apply the rules consistently.

  9. Apply agreed consequences immediately when behaviour expectations are not met.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Agree guidelines for behaviour

Resources and downloads

Reach to teach: Educating elementary and middle school children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This booklet contains information about FASD and classroom strategies to support learning.

Dan Dubovsky – Strategies for improving outcomes

In this video FASD specialist, Dan Dubrovsky, talks about how role-play helps students prepare for different situations.

Routine – 8 magic keys of success

In this video, the benefits of consistent routines are explained.

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

WrapApplication

The WRaP Application has been designed to serve as an educational tool and resource for teachers and parents who work alongside students with FASD on a regular basis. Available in iTunes.

PB4L Restorative practice

PB4L Restorative practice is based on a set of best practice tools and techniques to support a consistent and sustainable approach to managing positive, respectful relationships within the school.

Recognise student effort (image)
Poster text, “But, I’m trying so hard and you don’t even know!”
Provide immediate positive feedback

Students with FASD can become very tired from their efforts to concentrate and process information.

Use visuals to recognise small steps towards achieving larger goals.

Provide positive feedback frequently.

Source: Poppytalk: Hand-lettering

Recognise student effort
Minimise homework

When I am at school I use an enormous amount of my energy to keep myself safe and focused.

At the end of school I am extremely tired and do not cope well with homework.

Can you please think about ways to minimise homework for me and make it manageable?

Student ;

Source: Fetal Alcohol Network NZ

Minimise homework
Recognise student strengths (image)
Students working on iPads
Using knowledge to create opportunities

Get to know all students' strengths.

Provide regular opportunities for students to demonstrate and utilise their strengths and talents.

This builds their confidence in themselves as learners and allows their peers to see them as successful.

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Recognise student strengths
Give students time (image)
MOE Muritai School 99
Give students with FASD the time they need to succeed

Consider reducing the quantity of work and providing students with extra time to complete tasks.

This reduces stress and enables the student to be successful.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Give students time
Tips for collaboration
  1. Plan turn-taking games and circle games to encourage appropriate social interaction.

  2. Help students to wait their turn by providing a concrete object, such as a talking stick or stone for them to hold when it is their turn to talk.

  3. For buddy and small group activities, pair the student with FASD with other students who provide positive role models.

Tips for collaboration

Resources and downloads

Primary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support primary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

A series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Support participation, engagement and sustained motivation for learning

Examples of ways to support participation and build confidence from the UDL guide on the Inclusive Education: Guides for schools website.

Tips to support understanding

Support student motivation

  • Select topics that fit students’ interests.
  • Include some easy-to-achieve elements.

Keep language simple

  • Be explicit and brief.
  • Keep concepts concrete.
  • Use vocabulary familiar to students.
  • Accompany language with gestures, using hands, arms, and facial expressions.
  • Use visual cues – illustrations or posters.

Break information into small chunks

  • Break tasks into small steps.
  • Give steps one at a time – use visuals to represent steps.
  • Use digital technologies including: video, online games, and flip learning, so students can move at their own pace and revisit content as often as they need to.

Repetition is key

  • Reteach and reinforce learned concepts.
  • Teach steps in the same sequence.
  • Offer multiple opportunities to practise.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Tips to support understanding
Check in regularly with the student (image)
Teacher working with a student
Discuss students' work with them

Ask students regularly how they are doing.

Don't wait for them to come to you.

Source: Ministry of Education

Check in regularly with the student
Maximise hands-on learning (image)
Working with a number line
Learning by moving

Use hands-on, practical activities to build on the particular strengths of students with FASD and praise their effort and achievements.

Source: Ministry of Education

Maximise hands-on learning
Ten communication strategies (video)
Enhance communication with all learners

Students may have behavioural reactions when they experience language problems.

Use these strategies to enhance your communication with all learners, including those with FASD.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Ten communication strategies
Giving instructions
  1. Eye contact helps students to process verbal information.

  2. Use exaggerated facial and body language to convey meaning.

  3. Use visual cues to aid understanding and trigger memory.

  4. Give specific instructions, for example, “Put your reading book in the group box,” rather than “Tidy up”.

  5. Use the student’s name at the beginning of the sentence.

  6. Use the same words for the same instruction every time. This helps to place the instruction into the long-term memory.

  7. Keep instructions short.

  8. State what you want the student to do, not what they shouldn’t do.

  9. Just because the student can repeat instructions back does not mean they understand them. You may need to get the child to show you they know what you mean.

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Giving instructions

Resources and downloads

Primary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support primary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

A series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Reach to teach: Educating elementary and middle school children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This booklet contains information about FASD and classroom strategies to support learning.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Education strategies

This handbook supports teachers working with students who have FASD. It contains information to help identify students having difficulties, and strategies to support these students.

Create engaging learning materials that can be accessed and used in different ways

Examples of ways to present information to support understanding from the UDL guide on the Inclusive Education: Guides for schools website.

Everyone's In: An inclusive planning tool

This planning tool has been developed for teachers by the Ministry of Education. It is designed to assist with developing a classroom curriculum that works for all students, from the outset.

Provide students with more time

I’ll never forget Mrs. Spencer. She let me go at my own pace and said not to worry about keeping up with the class.

Student ;

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators (p. 40)

Provide students with more time
Support task completion
  1. Break tasks into small achievable steps, starting with what the student can already do.

  2. Provide breaks between steps.

  3. Keep instructions as short as possible, provide them one at a time, and reinforce with visual cues as prompts that can be returned to.

  4. Provide tactile examples of what you are teaching. Allowing the student with FASD to see and touch something will help them succeed in learning.

  5. Use the student’s own life experiences and knowledge when teaching new ideas. This gives them a reference point for their learning and helps them make connections with their prior learning.

  6. Reduce impulsivity and risks by providing a one-to-one session with the student before a lesson or trip, to ensure safety messages are understood.

Support task completion
Use visual timetables (NZ) (video)
Consistent visual cues

Linda Ojala uses the same visuals in a range of contexts across her classroom.

They support students to know what is happening and organise themselves.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Use visual timetables (NZ)
Provide choices between one or two options

FASD means that my brain has trouble thinking of lots of things at once. This makes it really hard for me to make choices and decisions.

It is helpful when I have someone else to help me understand what the choices are and how they might affect me.

Student ;

Source: Fetal Alcohol Network NZ

Provide choices between one or two options
Use timers (image)
A timer
Supporting students to anticipate transitions

Timers displaying how much time is allocated for activities during the day can help prepare students for transitions.

Source: Flickr

Use timers

Resources and downloads

Primary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support primary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

A series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Education strategies

This handbook supports teachers working with students who have FASD. It contains information to help identify students having difficulties, and strategies to support these students.

Personalising learning

Optimise the environment for personalised learning. Identify and minimise barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding.

Key considerations when personalising learning for students with FASD are:

  • realistic, ambitious, and achievable objectives
  • challenging personal targets
  • rapid intervention to keep students on track
  • constant and responsive assessment to monitor and maintain progress.
Personalising learning
Personalising learning checklist
  1. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and build on their knowledge, experience, and strengths.

  2. Develop success criteria with students and present it supported by visuals.

  3. Encourage and value independent and collaborative work in different formats, such as mind maps, videos, photos, and diagrams, that work for the student.

  4. Provide opportunities for students to gain confidence using a range of media so they can select the most appropriate to express their learning.

  5. Make learning support tools available to all students, for example: text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools, and storyboards.

  6. Use structured, collaborative peer mentoring, and cooperative learning models.

  7. Discuss the best environments for students to work in during exams and assessments.

  8. Provide extra time for assessments.

Personalising learning checklist
Tuakana-teina (image)
Two students playing with geometrical shapes
Buddy teaching

Provide opportunities for students with FASD to work with younger students.

This enables them to reinforce their own learning, collaborate, and experience success.

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Tuakana-teina
Ways to show what you know (image)
A poster listing ways of presenting information
Encourage and value creativity

Discuss with students the different ways they can demonstrate their thinking and learning. Help them decide which they will use.

Source: For the teachers blog

Ways to show what you know
Using technologies

Students can work at their own pace

Students with FASD may benefit from computer-based learning programs because they offer repetition, are visual, provide immediate feedback, and a hands-on learning experience.

Provide all students with access to tools that:

  • support collaboration and timely feedback, such as Google docs
  • can be customised to meet their individual needs and preferences
  • provide for repetition and allow students to revisit as often as necessary.
Using technologies

Resources and downloads

Primary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support primary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

A series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

Talking tin – Red 40 second recording

This digital tool supports students with developing oral fluency, listening, and writing.

Explore and support alternative ways for students to demonstrate their learning

Examples of ways to support students to create, learn and collaborate from the UDL Guide on the Inclusive Education: Guides for schools website.

Classroom transitions (video)
Teach routines and expectations

For students with FASD, ending one activity then beginning another can be a daunting task.

Directly teach the routines and expectations, then practise frequently.

Provide frequent guidance and positive feedback.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Classroom transitions
Managing pressure points

I hate going into the cloakroom in the morning as there is lots of pushing and shoving.

Mr Jack noticed that I was always grumpy first thing in the morning so he talked to me and my mum and we decided that I would come to class first and then go and hang up my bag after the bell.

Now I come into class happy and complete my handwriting without hurting others beside me.

Student (NZ) ;
Managing pressure points
Use a visual time table (image)
A teacher and her student read a visual timetable
Use a visual timetable to represent routines

For children with FASD, a sense of time must be imposed by external means.

Students who have an established routine are better able to create a sense of time but they need plenty of preparation for changes.

Source: Ministry of Education

Use a visual time table
Transitions between activities
  1. Use a calm, quiet voice to tell students what is happening.

  2. Provide a signal to warn students that a transition is approaching. For example, use a hand sign or a sound to indicate the end of an activity.

  3. Give advance warning of a planned transition. For example, “The lunch bell is going to ring soon. Put away your books now.”

  4. Refer to the visual timetable to show students what is happening next.

  5. Supervise transitions so they happen smoothly.

Transitions between activities
Prepare students ahead of time (NZ) (video)
Peer support for camp

To help a student prepare for their first school camp, students at Houghton Valley School made a book using digital photos with simple captions. 

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Prepare students ahead of time (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Primary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support primary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

A series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Transitions – managing times of change

This inclusive education guide provides support for planning more personalised transitions for students who will benefit from a longer-term orientation programme geared to their individual needs. Adapt the strategies that are most useful and relevant to the students you are working with.

Reach to teach: Educating elementary and middle school children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This booklet contains information about FASD and classroom strategies to support learning.

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

Back to top

Creating an inclusive learning environment that supports students with FASD in years 7–13

Consider how your classroom feels and works for students who have FASD. Take a Universal Design for Learning approach and include from the outset teaching approaches and a classroom layout that will support students with FASD. Work closely with Learning Support, RTLB and whānau.

Try differently, not harder. If the strategy is not working, try another.

Source: FASD strategies not solutions

Suggestions and resources

Walking in your student’s shoes

Take a walk around the classroom. Use all your senses to consider how the classroom might look, sound, and feel to your student.

Consider:

  • routines and ways of working
  • how you will make timing of assignments and assessment tasks manageable
  • the practical challenges for students, such as timetabling, and managing their time
  • how the student will find and access resources
  • how the classroom is laid out
  • where to create a quiet place for students to work
  • where your student can go if they need to calm down, and what your student needs for a calming space.
Walking in your student’s shoes
Creating structure in a flexible space (video)
Suggestions for classroom structures to support learners with FASD

Set up your environment to minimise students’ cognitive load.

Provide support for the specific needs of your students to enable them to work more independently.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: POPFASD (Canada)

Creating structure in a flexible space
Minimise distractions

A calm environment supports attention and provides a sense of security

Designing a well-organised and highly structured classroom will minimise the impact of demands to process and interpret new information.

Aim for a sense of calm, order, and organisation in your classroom.

Minimise auditory and visual distractions to maximise learning.

This approach will help diminish the confusion and frustration many students with FASD experience, and maximises their ability to focus on the task at hand.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Minimise distractions
Agree guidelines for behaviour

Develop a class treaty/norms/rules with the students

  1. Agree on clear, concrete rules that are the same across all classes.

  2. Display the rules in the classrooms.

  3. Use picture cues.

  4. Review the rules with students regularly.

  5. Role-play classroom rules.

  6. Use consistent vocabulary when teaching and reinforcing rules across all classes.

  7. Be consistent when applying the rules.

  8. Apply agreed consequences immediately when a rule is broken.

Agree guidelines for behaviour
Build routines (video)
Routines create a sense of safety

Consistent routines reduce stress and anxiety for students.

Develop simple routines, which are used daily to support successful learning and transitions with the students.

No captions or transcript available

Source: WRaP Schools (Canada)

Build routines

Resources and downloads

Dan Dubovsky – Strategies for improving outcomes

In this video FASD specialist, Dan Dubrovsky, talks about how role-play helps students prepare for different situations.

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

WrapApplication

The WRaP Application has been designed to serve as an educational tool and resource for teachers and parents who work alongside students with FASD on a regular basis. Available in iTunes.

Recognise what the student can do well (image)
Student with woodwork project
Use student’s interests and strengths as a basis for teaching

Design learning activities based around students’ interests.

Build flexibility into tasks so students can utilise their strengths and preferred ways of learning.

Source: Friends' Central School

Recognise what the student can do well
Fostering confidence
  1. Ask students how they like to learn.

  2. Use students’ interests and strengths as a basis for supporting them in choosing successful learning pathways.

  3. Recognise and eliminate situations that students may find difficult or embarrassing because of their physical, behavioural, or cognitive differences.

  4. Communicate success to the student, their parents or caregivers, and whānau.

  5. Recognise avoidance strategies and provide support and encouragement.

  6. Give students extra time to complete work.

  7. Make learning supports, such as text-to-speech and word prediction available to all students.

  8. Enable students to show their strengths and contribute their ideas in collaborative work, without the challenge of lengthy reading and writing tasks.

  9. Give prompt and specific feedback frequently.

Fostering confidence
Building peer supports

Identify when students with FASD might benefit from the support or companionship of a peer. For example, this could be:

  • a transition buddy who walks with the student from class to class
  • a homework buddy to call when they have questions about an assignment
  • a member of the sports team who will provide informal coaching and feedback in new situations, such as travelling on a bus for out-of-town games.

Help the student identify peers that they can ask for help. Make a diagram that illustrates who these people are in the student’s circle of support.

Building peer supports

Resources and downloads

Secondary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support secondary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

This resource provides a series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Support participation, engagement and sustained motivation for learning

Examples of ways to support participation and build confidence from the UDL guide on the Inclusive Education: Guides for schools website.

Keep verbal information brief and to the point

Listening to teachers make speeches. I can't handle that.

I … just sat there looking at the book. So I can read it okay, but I can’t listen to it properly. It’s like “What?”

And then I totally, I had to ask somebody, and then by the time I am asking somebody the question or the answer, then I’ve already lost the next part too.

Student ;

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators (p. 46)

Keep verbal information brief and to the point
Use visual timelines (image)
Timeline
Timelines support students to make connections

When teaching a topic that takes place over a length of time, create a timeline and display it in the classroom.

Also consider using an online timeline tool that students can easily access.

Source: Ministry of Education

Use visual timelines
Online support

Create accessible online spaces for students

Set up an online space with information and resources to support current areas of learning for your students.

Make the space easy to navigate and include links to:

  • videos that explain and/or demonstrate concepts
  • easy to understand information
  • assignment tasks, worksheets or handouts
  • your email address so students or their parents can ask questions.

Examples:

Online support
Provide clear, concise explanations

I would like teachers to know that we learn differently than others. Simple tasks like taking notes are very difficult. Teachers need to explain things in simple words.

Student ;

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD): A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators (p. 44)

Provide clear, concise explanations
Using digital technologies (NZ) (video)
1-1 devices

Wellington High School teacher, Ben Britton explains the benefits 1-1 devices provide his students.

Anywhere anytime access to lessons by students, tutors and/or family enables a support network. Tools such as a screen reader improve accessibility.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Using digital technologies (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Secondary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support secondary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

This resource provides a series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Communication – Strategies that work!

This video explains ten strategies to enhance communication with all learners, including those with FASD.

Create engaging learning materials that can be accessed and used in different ways

Examples of ways to present information to support understanding from the UDL guide on the Inclusive Education: Guides for schools website.

Everyone's In: An inclusive planning tool

This planning tool has been developed for teachers by the Ministry of Education. It is designed to assist with developing a classroom curriculum that works for all students, from the outset.

Give students more time (image)
Students working with their teacher
Supporting students to make connections

Build more time into lessons for students to process information.

Allow extra time for tests.

Teach students how to “self-talk” or visually map information to make connections.

Source: Ministry of Education

Give students more time
Use a step-by-step approach

Use task analysis and break skills into small components

  1. Use a step-by-step approach.

  2. Teach steps in the same sequence.

  3. Practise skills.

  4. Re-teach skills.

  5. Overlearn skills.

  6. Reinforce concepts.

  7. Revisit skills throughout the year.

  8. Offer multiple opportunities for practice.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Use a step-by-step approach
Sequencing strategies
  1. Create linear timelines.

  2. Break tasks into small steps.

  3. Colour code steps.

  4. Create checklists for sequencing.

  5. Create a photo story, using photographs showing each step.

  6. Mind maps help students organise their thoughts and tasks, and embed understanding.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Sequencing strategies
Supporting students to remember

Most students with FASD have a strong long-term memory. Their short-term memory is weaker.

Supports for recalling information

  • Use highlighters to identify important information when studying.
  • Use mnemonic devices.
  • Provide many opportunities for repetition, including online skill and drill activities.

Supports for tests and assignments

  • Allow students to use open books or notes in tests.
  • Provide examples of finished assignments and model answers for tests.

Supports for organising time and setting reminders

  • Use an online calendar to provide reminders for when assignments are due, when a trip is scheduled, or when specific gear is needed for classes.
  • Show students how to use the timer on their phone, watch, or laptop.
  • Create an online timetable, including class subjects and times, that can be accessed easily.

Source: Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: A comprehensive guide for pre K-8 educators

Supporting students to remember
Giving instructions
  1. Eye contact helps students to process verbal information.

  2. Use exaggerated facial and body language to help convey meaning.

  3. Use visual cues to aid understanding and trigger memory.

  4. Give specific instructions to the student. For example, say “Put your reading book in the group box” rather than “Tidy up”.

  5. Use the student’s name at the beginning of the sentence.

  6. Use consistent vocabulary for the same instruction every time. This helps to place the instruction into the long-term memory.

  7. Keep instructions short.

  8. State what you want the student to do, not what they shouldn’t do.

  9. Although a student can repeat instructions back it may not mean they understand them. Regularly ask the student to check understanding.

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Giving instructions

Resources and downloads

Secondary framework: Teaching and learning strategies to support secondary aged students with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

This resource provides a series of practical classroom strategies to support learning for students with FASD.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Education strategies

This handbook supports teachers working with students who have FASD. It contains information to help identify students having difficulties, and strategies to support these students.

Personalising learning checklist

Optimise the environment for personalised learning

  1. Intervene rapidly to keep students on track.

  2. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and build on their knowledge, experience, and strengths.

  3. Identify and minimise barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding.

  4. Develop success criteria with students and present them supported by visuals.

  5. Encourage and value independent and collaborative work in different formats that work for the students, such as mind maps, videos, photos, and diagrams.

  6. Provide opportunities for students to gain confidence using a range of media so they can select the most appropriate to express their learning.

  7. Make learning support tools available to all students (text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools, storyboards, and so on).

  8. Use collaborative, peer mentoring, and cooperative learning models.

  9. Provide constant and responsive assessment to monitor and maintain progress.

Personalising learning checklist
Tuakana-teina (image)
Students working together
Students with FASD often relate well to younger children

Pair the student up with a younger student who needs assistance in a subject where the student with FASD has strengths.

This enables them to reinforce their learning, collaborate, and experience success.

Source: Ngaruawahia High School

Tuakana-teina
Ways to show what you know (image)
A poster listing ways of presenting information
Encouraging and valuing creativity

Discuss with students the different ways they can demonstrate their thinking and learning.

Help them decide which they will use.

Source: For the teachers blog

Ways to show what you know
Supporting success in assessments

Pre-teach specific assessment and exam skills, such as how to manage the time allowance and how to approach multichoice questions

Discuss with students:

  • the physical environment – what students need to to do to minimise distractions and feel safe
  • managing time allocations – using timers in tests and graphic organisers to plan and  complete assignments
  • negotiating breaks and extra time for assessments
  • the use of technologies for documenting and expressing ideas.
Supporting success in assessments
Collaborating using digital technologies (image)
A Google doc
Flexible collaboration

Offer students tools such as Google docs that can easily support collaboration and timely feedback.

Customise their use to meet the individual needs and preferences of students.

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Collaborating using digital technologies

Resources and downloads

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

Explore and support alternative ways for students to demonstrate their learning

Examples of ways to support students to create, learn and collaborate from the UDL Guide on the Inclusive Education: Guides for schools website.

Preparing a student for transition to a new school
  1. Arrange for the student to visit the school and future classroom(s) on several occasions prior to the first day.

  2. Show photos or videos of the school.

  3. Prepare a video, Powerpoint, or scrapbook about the school for the student to revisit frequently over the summer holidays.

  4. Discuss the student’s concerns regarding the move.

  5. Use social stories to 'practise' a typical day at the new school.

  6. Arrange for the student to meet one or two key staff members who will be involved with them.

  7. Visit locations in the school that may be new or different, such as the gymnasium or the bus stop.

  8. Arrange a buddy (preferably a person the student knows well) to help the student negotiate his or her way around the school.

  9. Discuss the routines of a secondary school – moving between classrooms, using the library, storing possessions in lockers.

Preparing a student for transition to a new school
Transitioning between classes

Support students with on-going transition from class to class

  • Remind the student of what is going to happen at the end of each class.
  • Give a verbal reminder 5 minutes before the class will end.
  • Set a timer for a few minutes before the bell to prepare the student for a transition. This might be set on their phone, watch, or a physical timer.
  • Give clear, consistent instructions about what to do when the timer rings.
  • With the student, create a list of simple steps detailing how to move on to the next class. Place this on their desk and review it with the student in each class, every day, particularly at the beginning of the year.

This short video demonstrates the strategy in action – Module 5: Creating positive learning environments, Unit 6: Topic 9: Transition guides.

Transitioning between classes
Communicating with parents (image)
Man on cellphone
Set up ongoing communication systems

Communicate regularly with the student’s family.

Work together to prepare the student for changes in routines, moving to new classes, and moving out of school.

Source: Adapted from: Scott Maxworthy

Communicating with parents
Transitioning out of school
  • Start planning early – in the final three or four years of school, not the last three or four months.
  • Plan collaboratively with the student, their parents or caregivers and relevant school staff, such as their form teacher, dean, or the SENCO, for ongoing and consistent support and planning.
  • Identify large goals, such as what the student wants to do when they leave school.
  • Identify small goals for reaching the big goal – provide a visual of the small steps, which can be referred to and where achievements can be recorded.
  • Revisit the steps for achieving small goals frequently with the student.
  • Celebrate achieving small goals.

The Preparing students to leave school guide on the Inclusive Education website provides targeted strategies, suggestions, and resources to support successful transitions.

Transitioning out of school
Preparing for adult life

We need to ask ourselves as teachers, whenever we teach a rule or concept, how this will affect the children in adult life. Is this setting the stage for success as an adult?

Source: Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders p. 11:2
Preparing for adult life

Resources and downloads

Transitions – managing times of change

This inclusive education guide provides support for planning more personalised transitions for students who will benefit from a longer-term orientation programme geared to their individual needs. Adapt the strategies that are most useful and relevant to the students you are working with.

Climbing for success

This series of modules was developed by Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada. Interactive activities provide information about FASD and evidence-based strategies for promoting adaptive behaviour and managing challenging behaviours.

Dan Dubovsky – Fostering interdependence

In this video, Dan Dubovsky talks about the goal of fostering interdependence, rather than striving for complete independence.

Making a difference: Working with students who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

This practical guide introduces twelve elements for supporting students with FASD. These focus on understanding FASD, liaison with families, teaching and learning approaches, providing structure, academic and social skills and transitions.

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