by Antonia Rathbun, M.A., A.T.R.
Some or all of these common classroom symptoms may happen to children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Effects:
Often described as having 'low motivation,' 'not paying attention,' or 'daydreaming' (distractibility). Soft neurological signs frequently mistaken for lack of effort, laziness, defiance or low self-esteem.
May be ultrasensitive to noise, light, texture (auditory, visual or tactile defensiveness), and over or under sensitive to pain. May ask, "What was that?", make off-the-wall comments about little things, seem picky, avoid eye contact (gaze aversion).
Need more reteaching or seem to be starting from scratch (memory deficits). They tend to hide this not wanting to look different from other kids or be teased as stupid.
May master tasks one day, be unable to retrieve same skills a few days later (sporadic mastery): "I know I know it, but I just can't do it!" It distresses them to be unable to rely on their minds to recall what they learned when they need to (memory deficits).
Unexpected schedule changes may disorient them (sequencing problems). Rearranging seating or decorations may precipitate anxiety and distress, increase loss of belongings and disorganization (strongly visually / kinesthetically cued).
Discouraged, demotivated by incentives that work for many other children with same intelligence level; ie, grades, sticker charts. Variability of performance related to their central nervous system impairments (poor state regulation, overstimulation), rather than their level of desire to achieve: "I work just as hard on a "D" test, as I do on the days I get an "A"; so the grades don't help me."
May have trouble changing activities, resist redirection (disregulation, state rigidity), show irritability, stubbornness or repetitive speech or behavior (perseveration) as signs of distress.
Though interested in a project, may not know how to start in (problems with differentiating, prioritizing information).
Difficulty seeing patterns, trouble understanding cause and effect; ie can make verbal contract about schoolwork without understanding actions that support it (information processing deficits). Note: The obvious is not necessarily obvious to them!
Require external prompts and cues longer than peers (memory deficits), despite efforts to be self-sufficient and show competence. Keep directives simple; use as few words as possible. Give instructions one at a time. May need some visual cues as prompts.
FAS Community Resource Center