My inquiry: How do you determine the optimum level of educational support for a student with special needs, specifically Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)?
During my practicum I had the opportunity to work with a number of students with special needs, primarily FASD. I researched FASD and associated teaching strategies so that I could optimize students’ individual learning and engagement. Over the course of my practicum, I employed various recommended techniques and kept a journal to reflect on what was working, what wasn’t, and what adjustments were required.
Results & Lessons Learned
I think there is a tendency to assume because students have the same diagnosis they have the same learning needs and what I learned through this inquiry is that each students’ needs are very unique – what was effective for one student with FASD, did not have any effect on another. It is important as an educator to get to know the student as an individual and not to generalize based on a diagnosis.
While each of the students with FASD that I worked with had unique needs I did find some strategies that were effective overall: 1) provide students with an agenda for the day, along with time allotments so that students are aware and are able to better transition and adapt; (2) try to maintain similar structure and routines (3) for lessons go slow & keep it simple (4) minimize classroom distractions and (4) as required, arrange time to work with the student one-on-one in a quiet space.
Here is list of my top pick resources that informed my inquiry and teaching practice:
Signs & Symptoms of FASD – The behaviour of students with FASD can often be misinterpreted so developing an in-depth understanding of the signs and symptoms of FASD allowed me to better understand the cause behind certain behaviours and allowed me to tailor my response/teaching practice accordingly..
Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – The BC Ministry of Education’s website is a fantastic resource for teachers who have students with FASD. Maintaining patience was sometimes a challenge for me as I would continually have to correct the same behaviour; I found the table below really helpful in that regard as it allowed to me to understand that what I was seeing as ‘willful misconduct’ was in fact a symptom of FASD in terms of not being able to understand cause and effect:
Case Study with an example Individualized Education Plan: While there is no one strategy that works for each student with FASD, I found this case study and corresponding IEP useful as it shows various teaching strategies in action and gave me a better understanding of how to apply/adapt them.
8 MAGIC KEYS: Educational strategies for success with FASD – As mentioned above, there is no one strategy or solution; however, I did find that the following eight teaching techniques: concrete, consistent, repetitive, routine, simple, specific, structured and supervised which are widely endorsed, were highly effective when teaching students with FASD – see image below.
Environmental Modifications (USD-EDU) – Some students with FASD have serious problems maintaining the focus of their attention which makes it difficult for them to learn. The regular classroom can be overstimulating so creating or adapting the learning environment so that it has less distractions, dimmer lighting and more structure can be effective techniques. I found the strategies identified in chapter 3 very useful!