I was recently asked by the Waterloo Catholic SEAC Chair to share my thoughts toward a survey centered around FASD conversations with the Ministers of Education Advisory Council on Special Education. I was also asked by a couple special education consultants to do the same for them.
Next week, I will provide an update on the status of the advocacy movement regarding Bill 191.
The following is Shelley and my thoughts on what a successful strategy to support students with FASD would look like.
Successful Practices -
1) Establish relationship and trust
2) Establish a safe person. We want to encourage the student to run to someone, never away
3) Check for comprehension particularly at the beginning of class
4) Frequent opportunities to move with heavy muscle usage
5) Use high interest topics and be flexible and accommodating in assessment
6) Use chunking and limit the amount of talking and information
7) Simple directions
8) Encourage class participation on their terms
9) Recognize the signs of anxiety and immediately seek to de-escalate
10) Give lots of body breaks including recess and gym
11) Seek opportunities to instruct in quiet, affirming settings
12) Make instruction visual and concrete
13) Maintain routine at all costs.
14) An educational assistant is a key partner in achieving success. They always need an external brain
1) Educational assistant positions have been getting cut in the last four years and existing positions are getting stretched thinner.
2) Violence in schools are generally tied to mental health challenges. Educators are lacking in best practice training for supporting mental health challenges. Students with FASD, ADHD, Anxiety, PTSD due to trauma, Autism, and concussions can all have mental health challenges.
3) Violence is becoming prevalent in our schools today. On June 27, 2017, the first comprehensive survey on violence in schools was released. Almost 90% of Ontario teachers have experienced violence in the school, 85% say it is increasing and 80% say it is become more severe.
4) The province have also cut LHIN funding so our access to occupational therapy and speech language pathology is becoming much harder to access.
5) These neuro disabilities are frequently misunderstood. The child cannot choose between right and wrong behaviour when they are experiencing trauma and/or anxiety. They require an external brain to choose for them.
6) FASD is a lifetime disability. They will always be dealing with these challenges and will repeat poor decision making if put in unsupported environments.
7) There is now a provincial-wide shortage of young teachers. Every school board in this province is currently experiencing a lack of supply teachers which in turn creates more difficulties in maintaining routine for these students.
Possible solutions/future directions
1) Early intervention is so important. When effective strategies are learned and engrained early in controlled environments, these strategies will stick with them and the individual will go back to them. 2) Create an environment of acceptance and listening from the start. The problems always come when they try to deal with it on their own and hide it. When they use their team, they always find solutions.
3) When they are used to relying on others early, they will continue to rely on others for support through their entire lives.
4) All the needed tools already exist in the school system to support students impacted by FASD. The tools just need to be adapted. ABA consultants can help determine the anxiety triggers. Behaviour consultants can focus on finding self-regulation strategies and not reward systems. Occupational Therapists can develop sensory profiles and get the proper sensory tools. Speech-Language Pathologists and Psychologists can find the cognitive strengths and point out the things that create frustration.
5) Social and Emotional Learning Coaches need to be informed and educated on how to help these students and getting training from qualified counselors and/or psychotherapists who specialize in supporting the effects of FASD.
6) Assistive Tech people can support the deficiencies and create some level of independence. With technology, these students can follow their routine, they know when to start and stop, reminded to take their body break, refer back to assignment expectations, get extra help, work with visual mediums and low noise volume, and use relaxation programming.
7) Students impacted by FASD also require direct and specific digital citizenship education. They can’t filter the drama and amount of words that comes from social media. They need their external brain to help them navigate that information.
Other Comments Unless school boards are given the necessary tools to deal with the rising prevalence of students impacted by FASD, it is going to get worse. This is why Bill 191 is receiving so much support from Boards of Trustees, Special Education Advisory Committees, educators, teacher associations, parents and students across this province. Bill 191 is required for students impacted by FASD, necessary for students impacted by neuro disabilities and good for all students.