Newsletter 171 - Learners with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
The next four newsletters will focus on research done on children with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). The articles will look at the learning disabilities and the demand this place on teachers and the education system. The areas covered is firstly general articles about the syndrome in international context, secondly FAS in the Northern Cape and lastly FAS in the Western Cape.
“Active Learning: Bridging the Gap for Fetal Alcohol Effect Children” by Debbie Evensen Fall (1991) - http://www.faslink.org/j.htm.
This is an adapted summary of Debbie’s article mostly in her own voice.
Professionals are deeply concerned about the educational implication of prenatally alcohol/drug exposed children. At a recent community support group for teachers and other professionals working with children with Fetal Alcohol the frustration level was obvious. Teachers shared feelings of being overwhelmed, not only with the sheer numbers of these students entering their classrooms, but also with the ineffectiveness of traditional techniques in teaching these children.
The learners with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome demonstrate a wide variety of deficits, depending on the period of fetal brain development when the alcohol or drugs were ingested. A review of the literature shows that only the most severely affected children are discussed, while the other 80%, many undiagnosed, are at-risk for developing significant school problems. The need for long-term planning is obvious.
Behaviors and specific sites of alcohol caused brain damage have been correlated: hippocampal damage has been implicated in learning and memory deficits, and dam- age to the cerebellum may affect motor control. FAS children have severe information processing deficits, which mean that the connecting link between taking in the information and the subsequent action is defective.
Therefore, FAS children may have learning disabilities in the following four domains:
Traditional teaching techniques assume that with minimal assistance the child is capable of taking in verbal instructions, processing the information, remembering what is expected and completing the assigned tasks. This can be an impossible task for the FAS child without extensive assistance and learning methods that bridge the information processing gap.
Techniques that incorporate multi-sensory, whole brain strategies into daily academic instruction are modalities of learning that have been successful, and are helping to bridge this gap for FAS learners. The following is a summary of some of these techniques: