"Prenatal alcohol consumption is the commonest cause of learning disabilities in school-age children."
- Dr. Anna Binkiewicz, University Medical Center pediatrician.
"There are no programs, no funding for a lot of these gray-area kids. Things will get worse before they get better."
- Ruth Solomon, Tucson educator and legislator.
"These kids with FAE look normal, and we expect them to be accountable for their behavior, but they don't have the control. I'm so worried about these kids."
- Theresa Kellerman, coordinator, FAS Community Resource Center.
Teaching FAS/FAE kids requires patience, understanding
Ruth Solomon answers a student's question at Kellond Elementary, where she teaches reading skills to students who need extra help.
Some fade into the walls, getting passed from class to class, learning little.
Others create havoc, disrupting classrooms and frustrating teachers.
More and more children have learning problems for one reason or another, and I believe much of it has to do with prenatal alcohol and drug use," said Tucson educator and legislator Ruth Solomon.
Many of these children do not succeed in school.
According to a study released last year, 43 percent of school-age children with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects are either suspended, expelled or drop out of school.
Solomon said they can be frustrating children to teach. "With some of these kids, you don't know where they are coming from and you don't know what to do with them," she said.
Solomon, who is also a democratic senator in the Arizona legislature, teaches at-risk children at Kellond Elementary School.
"I teach a lot of gray-area kids, a lot of FAE kids," she said.
The children she teaches have IQs too high to qualify for special education classes.
Yet they simply cannot learn as most children do.
"These kids can be terribly frustrating to teach," Solomon said. "Twenty-three years ago we saw maybe a dozen kids like this. Now we are seeing a lot of children who display the kinds of learning problems synonymous with fetal alcohol effect.
"Some schools are starting to reach a critical point. Now it's not unusual for half the class to not be reading where they should be."
She said some of the kids can't focus, are rowdy and are constantly in trouble.
"They tend to suffer from impulsivity," Solomon said. "Those kids end up in the principal's office."
Others are timid, and "slide by," she said.
"They learn some survival techniques, like getting their mom and dad to do their homework," she said. "They make sure they're not seen when you call on people. They tend to fade into the background."
Though some of Solomon's students are not diagnosed as having fetal alcohol effects, Solomon believes some may have been damaged by alcohol in the womb.
"There are a lot of kids I suspect, but there is no way to document it," she said. "You must count on a mother's candor about her drinking (to get an FAE diagnosis), and it isn't always possible."