Back to school for caregivers!
Going back to school can be both scary and exciting for our children with FASD. Transition is always a difficult time and transitioning back to a school routine is no different. This confusing and uncertain time can bring out challenging behaviors. The following are some tips to ease our children back into the school routines.
Routine and Structure
Routine and structure continue to be important for children with FASD; and is essential to ensuring a successful experience throughout the school year. Negative behaviors often arise when children are unable to cope or meet expectations made by others. Routine and structure help them to know what is expected, thus experiencing less frustration and less confusion.
Children with FASD have trouble learning and remembering new things or understanding that actions have consequences. A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed; such as waking up, picking our cloths, and getting dressed. A consistent routine can help your child to learn and remember important life skills. An example of a simple structured routine is developing a timetable for bedtime and morning routines; each step can be broken down into simple to follow tasks. Use of visual reinforcements to show each step, helps to avoid missed tasks.
Structure is important for individuals with FASD as it creates consistency. Building structure at home provides predictability, concrete guidance, positive expectations, trust and flexibility when change in impending.
Often an individual with FASD will struggle with the concept of time. For individuals with FASD transitions from one activity to another may be very difficult when they do not understand when something will be starting or ending. Frequent reminders are important for supporting success. Timers, stopwatches, and alarms are helpful tools for keeping someone with FASD better prepared for transitions. An increased understanding of time may lead to easier transitions between activities.
Children with FASD often have difficulty focusing, maintaining, organizing and shifting their attention. When children become overwhelmed or overstimulated, they may find themselves unable to control large emotional outbursts. They may not know how to stop their tantrum; to help your child regain control, remember to remain calm and say things like “open your eyes” and “close your mouth”.
Caregivers can create a safe space for children to go to when they are feeling overwhelmed. The space could be a bedroom, or a small tent in the corner of room. The space should be reserved as a place they can self-regulate, calm down and avoid sensory overload; this space should not be viewed as punishment, but instead comfortable, quiet and cozy.
It is important to be patient with your child. Most mistakes are made because of impulsive behaviors and not understanding. Remain calm and speak quietly when reviewing inappropriate behaviors and sharing the appropriate expectation. Set firm rules and review them with your child often.
It is important to remember that children with FASD will be more compliant if you give them something, they CAN do. Also, although they may be capable of doing something one day, they may not be able to do the same task the next day and may need to re-learn the task.
May all the children have a successful return to school. For more information or support please contact LCFASD at 1-877-594-9905
The Lakeland Centre for FASD provides cost-free programs and services in the Cold Lake, Bonnyville, St. Paul and Lac la Biche areas, as well as on First Nations and Métis Settlements through Alberta.