I have to tell you that one of the most common complaints from families is that they cannot seem to get the school to understand their child’s issues with FASD. I think there are many issues at work with this.
1.FASD kids will do anything they can to not seem different. My children may have a disorder known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder but they want to fit in just like every other child. Therefore my kids will do everything they can not to seem like they are struggling. This includes being the best helper in the room, being the class clown, being the quietest (so you don’t notice them at all) and being defiant. The child will use whatever they can so no one treats them like they are “stupid” (not my word but from one of my children). One of the biggest issues is that most individuals with FASD have a normal IQ. They know that people look at them differently when they are struggling. They do not want to have someone judge them. They do not want to seem like they are different. Therefore what the school sees may be very different from what is seen at home. Often the child uses every bit of energy to stay on task as much as possible at school. The stress of this means that when they get home they have nothing left and often this results in extreme behaviors.
2.Teachers may not have any training on FASD. The fact is that there is a whole lot of information that teachers need to know. There are a lot of new policies that they must keep up with and changes to the curriculum. Then well honestly there are a lot of different disabilities that they will be dealing with. I know we would really like them to understand our child. So we need to be willing to do some of the leg work for them. Take in information. Provide information specific to your child that you feel they need to know. Then ask them to meet with you. Explain that the only way a child with FASD can truly be successful is if everyone involved with them is on the same team. Try to make sure they know you are not trying to tell them what to do but that if it is possible for them to join this child’s team it makes a huge difference for your child’s future. Honestly this is the only way to try to form a good and positive team for your child. If they refuse then you know you need to look for a way to have a different teacher for the child.
3.If the Administration is not supportive of the needs then the teacher may struggle to implement the plan. It is important to also look at the school for how supportive the administration is of the needs of your child. In our world of zero tolerance there can be some real issues with a child with FASD. For example with the impulsive issues caused by picking up items that are not theirs. As soon as a child is 10 the school tends to charge the child with stealing. Unfortunately often FASD kids struggle to deal with ownership and also with just the impulsive act of picking up things that are not theirs. They then panic as when the action finally sinks in and others are upset they don’t know how to fix the issue. This can cause some real issues when the child begins to be charged with behaviors associated with their disability.
4.Parent frustration and burn out. Just looking at the first 3 issues I think that this one isn’t that surprising. The fact is that the parent is the only advocate the child may have at times. Or at least some days it does feel this way. I have sat in IEP meetings and been so frustrated I could not stop crying. I walked out feeling like just giving up. After years of this it can certainly add to the day to day stress to the point of burn out. Some days we just need to hear that everyone believes what we are saying. That while they may not see exactly what we see at home that they do see that the child is trying and that we aren’t trying to be the problematic parent we just need to make sure our child gets all the help they need! We hear them hurting at home when life is not going well. We wipe their tears and we hurt along with them.
Again these are only a few of the frustrations often present with FASD and schools…I am not in any way saying that most educators are causing problems or trying to make the FASD journey any harder. I have had some incredibly wonderful experiences with teachers and administrators. BUT I also know that when everyone is not on the same page it can make life so incredibly hard. It can make the parent feel so alone.