I was recently involved in a research project that surveyed 89 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta enrolled in the Faculty of Education pre-service teacher training program. The goal was to investigate the knowledge, attitudes, and efficacy of pre-service teachers in addressing the needs of students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in order to consider how to optimally prepare pre-service teachers for classroom work with the FASD population. Results indicated that as a group the respondents had a very basic knowledge of FASD and its challenges with little or no knowledge of specific classroom strategies or community supports. Student respondents identified a desire to learn more about the specific cognitive and behavioural effects of FASD as well as ways to become familiar with strategies, interventions, and resources to meet student needs prior to entering a classroom setting.
A review of the literature indicated that teachers currently working in the field have a moderate knowledge of the FASD population from direct interactions with affected children, but continue to show deficits in understanding in respect to strategies, interventions and resources (Blackburn, Carpenter, & Egerton, 2010). Ryan and Ferguson (2006) reported that often children with FASD are not in special schools or special classrooms, so it is imperative that all teachers have a sound knowledge of the disorder, as well as of supports and interventions in order to maximize the benefit of school programming for those affected by FASD.
In my experience, children with FASD (diagnosed or undiagnosed) often come to the attention of the school counsellor/psychologist because learning deficits or behavioural issues have been identified in the classroom. This places the school counsellor/psychologist in an optimal position to educate the teacher, other school professionals, and the community about the challenges and needs of those with FASD. In some cases this may be the beginning of the diagnostic process for the family. With the prevalence rate of FASD in Canada estimated at 1 in 100 people (Stade, Ali, Bennett, Campbell, Johnston, Lens, & Koren, 2009), with significantly higher numbers in some populations, more training has become available to help professionals better understand the needs of this vulnerable population.
In your role as the school counsellor/psychologist what do you know about FASD that can be of service to the teachers and schools in your area?
Helpful Links: http://education.alberta.ca/admin/special/resources/fasd.aspx; www.canfasd.ca; www.fasdontario.ca; www.motherisk.org; www.fasd.typepad.com; www.fasdoutreach.ca/; www.nofas-uk.org
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA