What is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), what causes it and how can you support children who have it?

If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, she risks damaging her baby. Sometimes this can result in mental and physical problems in the baby, called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Find answers to your questions about this condition and how to support children who have it here.

Find information on FASD here as well as how you can effectively support children with the condition in your classroom.

What is FASD?

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term for several diagnoses that are all related to prenatal exposure to alcohol. These are:

  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS
  • Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, PFAS
  • Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder, ARND
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects, ARBD

According to the NHS website;

This can occur because alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to her baby through the placenta.The baby can’t process alcohol as well as the mother can, which means it can damage cells in their brain, spinal cord and other parts of their body, and disrupt their development in the womb.This can result in the loss of the pregnancy. Babies that survive may be left with lifelong problems. Foetal alcohol syndrome is a type of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), the name for all the various problems that can affect children if their mother drinks alcohol in pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of FASD?

A baby exposed to alcohol in the womb may have:

  • a head that’s smaller than average
  • poor growth – they may be smaller than average at birth, grow slowly as they get older, and be shorter than average as an adult
  • distinctive facial features – such as small eyes, a thin upper lip, and a smooth area between the nose and upper lip, though these may become less noticeable with age
  • movement and co-ordination problems, known as cerebral palsy
  • learning difficulties – such as problems with thinking, speech, social skills, timekeeping, maths or memory
  • mood, attention or behavioural problems 
  • problems with the liver, kidneys, heart or other organs
  • hearing and vision problems

These problems are permanent, though early treatment and support can help limit their impact on an affected child’s life.

How can you effectively support children with FASD in school?

Students with FASD may benefit from:

  • being seated at the front of the classroom due to hearing and vision problems
  • using assistive devices or receiving one to one support in class due to poor coordination
  • being allowed to complete work or tests in a separate room due to poor concentration
  • being given additional time to complete in-class and homework assignments due to reduced processing abilities
  • additional tutoring in areas of weakness
  • taking medication to help with attention problems and other issues
  • being offered occupational, physical, and speech therapies

Teachers can provide additional support by:

  • presenting information in clear, brief, and simple segments
  • reducing distractions in the classroom
  • using visual support materials
  • using a visual timetable or providing advance warning of changes of activity
  • teaching on a one to one or small group basis
  • teaching relaxation and anger management techniques

As with many types of special educational need, finding the best strategy for supporting students with FASD may take time, so be patient. Assessing students’ unique strengths, praising them for their efforts, and providing a supportive environment can go a long way toward helping children with this condition to succeed at school.

Are you seeking SEND work or staff?

If you’re looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?

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