Building Understanding and Support: Strategies for Teachers

Teachers have identified three important components of understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, FASD ( and have developed strategies for building this understanding. Let’s delve deeper into each component and explore specific examples of strategies that can be employed.

Understanding the Whole Student: To truly understand students with FASD, teachers need to take the time to build and cultivate a relationship with them. This involves creating a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable expressing their needs. For example, teachers can:

  • Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with the student to discuss their progress, challenges, and any concerns they may have.
  • Engage in active listening and show empathy to foster trust and rapport.
  • Collaborate with the student’s parents or caregivers to gain additional insights into their strengths, triggers, and effective strategies for addressing behaviors.
  • Gather information from other professionals involved in the student’s support network, such as therapists or medical practitioners, to ensure a comprehensive understanding of their needs.

Additionally, focusing on and emphasizing the accomplishments of students over their challenging behaviors can be highly impactful. Teachers can:

  • Celebrate the victories, such as completing a task independently or demonstrating improved self-regulation skills.
  • Provide specific and meaningful praise for their efforts and progress.
  • Recognize and showcase their unique talents and interests, such as artistic abilities or problem-solving skills, to boost their self-esteem.

Integrating choice with expectations is another effective strategy for understanding the whole student. By allowing students to have some autonomy within clear boundaries, teachers can:

  • Provide options for completing assignments or tasks, allowing students to choose the approach that works best for them.
  • Offer choices in classroom activities or projects, aligning them with the curriculum goals while allowing for personal expression.
  • Create visual schedules or checklists that empower students to make decisions about their daily routines and responsibilities.
  • Implement strategies like “first-then” schedules, where students choose a preferred activity to engage in after completing a less preferred task.

Responding within Dynamic Environments: Supporting students with FASD requires teachers to respond effectively within dynamic educational environments. Here are examples of strategies that can be employed:

  • Foster an inclusive atmosphere with student peers: Educate classmates about FASD and encourage empathy and understanding. Implement activities that promote collaboration, teamwork, and peer support. For instance, group projects that encourage students to work together and support one another’s strengths can create a sense of belonging.
  • Build the home-school relationships: Establish regular communication channels with parents or caregivers, including sharing updates on the student’s progress, challenges, and strategies. Collaborate on behavior management techniques that can be implemented consistently at home and at school.
  • Access individualized funding: Advocate for the student’s eligibility for specialized resources, therapies, or assistive technology that can support their learning and development. Work with administrators and relevant professionals to secure necessary funding to bridge any gaps in services.

Optimizing Student-Centered Programming: Creating student-centered programming tailored to the needs of students with FASD is crucial. Consider these strategies:

  • Match supports with needs: Develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that address specific areas of difficulty. This may include providing visual supports, breaking down tasks into manageable steps, or incorporating sensory breaks to help with self-regulation.
  • Build on strengths: Identify and nurture the student’s strengths, talents, and interests. Tailor lessons and assignments to incorporate their preferred learning styles and engage their strengths. For example, a student with strong visual-spatial skills could be encouraged to create visual representations of concepts or use diagrams to understand complex ideas.
  • Address service gaps: Collaborate with other professionals, such as occupational therapists or speech-language pathologists, to address specific needs that may not be fully met within the classroom. Advocate for additional resources or services that can

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