How to win with FASD and school

FASD Forever

5 Simple Strategies to Stay Cool

With Your Kids School


For some parents and caregivers, school means sweet, sweet respite. But for most, it means an ongoing and constant battle between you and the school. The first day of school begins with a sigh of relief once your child reaches their classroom, but then so do the countless phone calls, poor grades and not to mention those fantastic one on one meeting with teachers.

Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn, not to mention what it does to your kids. Really, though. Could you imagine having to go somewhere everyday just to get in trouble with teachers and teased by other students? No wonder your kids put you through hell every morning and do everything in their power to not go to school.

But, have no fear! Your child’s school experience does not have to be like that. Educational institutions and Caregivers can be successful and even have a great relationship, if done right. It can be the difference between your kid with FASD succeeding or just another source of frustration for them and you.

I have come across a fantastic document from Alberta Education’s ‘Learning and Teaching Resources Branch’, called Redefining Success: A Team Approach to Supporting Students with FASD. It’s an amazing resource, which provides you with fantastic resources to make the school year the most positive and rewarding experience for teachers, caregivers and students. The downfall of the article is that it is 86 pages and as caregivers of a student with FASD, finding that kind of time is very tough. So, I’m giving you the Coles notes. I have provided you with the five most important strategies that will help bring you and your child success throughout the school year. Think of it as a ‘How to Conquer School Guide’.

If you do get an opportunity to read a few more pages, I encourage you to click the link below and read the full document for yourself. You will be glad that you did. I’m sure of it.



This, in my opinion, is the most important thing you can do for yourself as a caregiver and as an advocate. In order for someone to put themselves in your shoes, you must first put yourself in theirs. In this case it would be the teachers turn to put on your shoes, that of the caregiver. For the vast majority of teachers, they want to do well, they want to make a difference in your child’s life and help them build skills to be successful. However, most teachers have not been through any kind of training about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is your job to teach them about the disability through constant communication, whatever type of communication that may be. I had the opportunity to work in a high school for a semester with some truly, wonderful teachers, however their mandate as a school is to teach academics. But, like many schools, are underfunded and too under staffed to deal with the demands our kids place on them. To build rapport with the staff at the school you need to have an abundance of patience (I know it’s easier said than done, trust me, I know) and LOTS of tenacity. Whatever it takes to get them on your side and your team, do it! Even if that means buttering them up with some of your famous brownies or cupcakes. Remember, some teachers who do not understand FASD will think your part of the problem, so do your best to show them otherwise by building great rapport with them.



Guess what? Contrary to popular belief you are the expert on your child. A strategy that worked for me, was I created a cheat sheet about the student with FASD. Make a one pager about what works with your child and what does not. I was once told by a teacher that if it’s more than one page, the chances of the teachers reading it are slim because they are so busy. The education goal for your child should be to focus on more of what they like and are good at and not their weaknesses. And if you don’t tell your child’s teacher, it might take them all term to figure it out. It’s all about creating competence with these students; because once we have competence then we get compliance. Guaranteed! There is a template already laid out for you on page 48, Tool F. Check it out!



Because there will be a meltdown. If they happen at home, they will happen at school. Let the teacher know how you handle your child at home, what a typical meltdown may look like, even the language you use. If the meltdowns become more frequent, it’s because your student is overwhelmed and is not able to do what they are being asked.



At the end of the day all these kids want is to be just like other kids. Social inclusion is of the utmost importance. These kids need to have as much social practice as possible. Period.

Find a way to include yourself at the school every once and a while, ie. School trips, clubs, sports, science fairs, whatever, it just gives you another opportunity to build rapport with school staff, not to mention educate them. Building positive peer relationships is always a challenge for these guys, so the more opportunities they have to practice being a good friend and being a part of a group, the better. Just because they have a disability does not mean that they should be secluded from enjoying the benefits that come from participating in school clubs. The difference with children and young people with FASD, is that they need to do things more often for less time, that way they get to enjoy the experience without having to be there for too long. Which also means less opportunity for a meltdown to occur. Check and check.



If you get to the point where you are so frustrated you just want to start throwing people through windows(for some weird reason that’s what I always picture doing to people when I am mad) then for heaven’s sake, go find people who get it. I mean, really get FASD. There are only so many pamphlets and educating you can do. So, take your child somewhere else. Talk with other FASD caregivers, go to other schools and meet with the staff; you are not as powerless as you might think. If the school is not meeting your child’s needs then go find one that will!!!

School can be a fantastic time for children, even those with FASD. We have to honor their disability and as caregivers we can do that by using the above strategies and reading the amazing document from the link below. With the help of fantastic caregivers like yourself and supportive teachers, you will be amazed at what your child can accomplish.


Call to Action

Let me know if there are any other specific strategies that you have found helpful for you and your child in school? And even better, let me know what hasn’t worked? No use in reinventing the wheel, right?!
Here is the link

Source:( Re: Defining Success. A Team Approach to Supporting Students with FASD)


Making Sense of the Madness: An FASD Survival Guide.

You will learn how to:

  • Increase your FASD understanding and decrease your frustration
  • Sharpen your advocacy skills and strengthen your support network
  • Be a happier, more balanced and confident FASD Caregiver


  1. Thanks Jeff – Excellent suggestions. Bonnie & I have been through the school scene with our two daughters (one with ARND, one with multiple other mental issues non-FASD related) and now we are raising our two grandchildren, one of whom has been diagnosed with ARND. Rapport with the teachers and the principal in each school is absolutely critical.

    Now, I’d like some guidance on how to link my Facebook entries with my FASDance blog. Any suggestions?

  2. Hey Brian Thanks for the comment. As far as the guidance goes, I’ll pass your question on to my team and see if we can’t get an answer for you.


  3. The agency I foster through actually recommends a certain school for my girl. I image this school has already been through the challenges of teaching/managing children with FASD. At least I can hope. If not, I have a second school lined up already…pretty funny seeing as how she doesn’t start school for two years.

  4. Defining success – a team approach – excellent read. Some of these tools we have been using and others we are going to implement. One thing I did last night was give our 12 yr old daughter my resource book, “Graphic organizers Grades 4-8”, let her look through the charts and mark the ones that sh thought would work for her. This way she is telling me what way her brain works and what will or will not work for her, she is also advocating and taking responsibility for her own learning. I printed off the tool section and will be sharing this info with the team that is working with our 6 elementary aged children. I also plan to share with our pediatrician. Tmorrow is our FASD awareness day at SIMMS PARK, in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. We all plan on going and connecting as we are relativly new to the Island. The Wiachey Center here apparently does some good work in this area. We are off to find resources, network, share and learn. To be successful at assissting our child to reach their goals WE NEED TO KEEP LEARNING NEW WAYS AND WORK AND SHARE. Thank you for this wonderful meeting place Jeff.

  5. Hey Desiree,

    I think it’s great that you have schools lined up already, That IS early intervention. I have no doubt that you will prepare yourself and your young one for the challanges that lie ahead keep it up!!!


  6. Hey Grace.

    You made a very valid point when it comes to sharing information. We are all still learning about this disability, we have come a long way but there is still more work to be done. Please keep me posted during the school year and you can let us know what worked for you from the document.


  7. This stuff is what I tried to tell my coworkers (and my boss) before I ‘overstepped’ my boundaries and implemented it myself. I am excited to say that come the end of this year, I will be one those people that is educated about FASD, due to a class I am taking. Your knowledge and resources are wonderful, and this is a WONDERFUL article Jeff, thank you so much for sharing. Everyone should read that resource book, and if I was still in touch with my coworkers I’d take a copy in!

  8. i came across this article and just wanted to say it was a great read. and i will be passing the link on to friends and family. p.s fantastic website youv’e done a wonderful job in creating a informative website on subject’s such as these ! i currently work for this web organization Mental Health Awareness. And found this website to have some really interesting articles. i have passed this article onto some close colleagues who should find this well worth a read.

  9. Right now I’m dealing with a school that refuses to recognize FASD as a disability!!!Our 11 ad has FAS/ADHD/Chromosome 22q11.2 deletion/OCD and Bi-polar. Her world is a hard one and the school makes it so much worse. I have called and emailed telling them that the homework needs to end and yet they keep sending it home. We have major rages/meltdowns daily because of it. I am meeting with them on Thurs and hopefully I can get them to understand what they are doing to her (and our whole family). As for being on good terms with the school-they do not like me as we just moved here and brought 6 FAE kids that lower their test scores. I could tell from my first meeting with the director of special ed that she really didn’t like me.

  10. We feel for you, Donn…we were told our 10 yr old couldnt have a ‘no homework’ clause in her IEP, because then she wouldnt fulfill the general cirriculum and graduate with a diploma in 2019…sorry, but ‘the future’ to us is a week, a day, a month from now. If I stress over her graduating now, I won’t have the energy to get her through the 5th grade(heading into 6th)…it’s one day at a time, one step at a time. Our daughter, and us, are overwhelmed on a daily basis as it is… I truly wish the teachers and principal could live in our world, for just 24-48 hours…maybe then, they’d understand.

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