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Think it might be FASD?

Early Childhood: Recognizing and Reframing

Prenatal alcohol exposure can impact a child’s brain structure, size and functioning. Learn how to help your child be successful at home.

How might you “see” symptoms of FASD at home?

  • Hyperactivity
  • Perseveration (getting “stuck” on something)
  • Fearlessness / lacking awareness of danger
  • Poor coordination & little understanding of personal space issues
  • Perseveration (being “stuck” on an activity or thought)
  • Eating problems (poor suck in infancy, can be “picky eaters” later)
  • Sleep problems
  • May not understand sarcasm, jokes or understand abstract concepts
  • May be easily influenced by negative peers and appear desperate for friends
  • Aggressiveness
  • Impulsiveness (Making decisions without thinking about consequences)
  • Seeking attention in inappropriate ways
  • Exaggerated “fight or flight” response due to anxiety
  • Easily distracted, poor organizational and time management skills
  • Vulnerable to ideas in TV, movies, music, advertising and may blur reality
  • Easily frustrated, frequent meltdowns
  • Problems with managing emotions and appears moody
  • Oppositional behavior such as doing the opposite of what they have been told
  • Sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviors
  • Time-outs, punishments and consequences are not effective in changing behavior

Look for the Positive

Children with an FASD often receive negative messages from those around them which can impact their self-esteem in later years (Sit still, stop talking, go away). Commit to parenting using a strength-based approach to recognize and validate your child’s strengths.

  • “Catch” them doing an act of kindness for a sibling or peers
  • Thank them and recognize when they are being helpful
  • Redirect, rather than scold (If they are not sharing, offer them another toy instead of demanding they share)
  • Let them make choices and create a sense of power. (Give clothing options and let them pick)
  • Ask them their opinion and listen to their response using phrases like “What do you think about X?”

Seeing the Invisible Disability: Reframe

When caregivers can learn to reframe challenging behaviors, they can respond more effectively. It’s important to recognize that the child’s behavior is likely a result of their brain deficits and the behavior is communicating a need.

When we learn to “see” the invisible disability behind the behaviors, we are able to shift our perspective and help children impacted by an FASD reach their greatest potential.*

Won’t versus Can’t

Reframing the way you see and respond to challenging behaviors can help both you and your child. Sometimes, it may seem like their behavior is merely oppositional, stubborn or defiant. But a reframed understanding of the child’s neurological deficits allows you to change the approach and set your child up for greater success.

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* For a more detailed description of reframing, see Diane Malbin’s book, Trying Differently Rather Than Harder or visit her website at Diane Malbin is a clinical social worker, author and birth mother of an adult child with an FASD.