Alaska Flowers

Fetal Alcohol Services of Alaska

Social Behavioral Challenges in Children with FAS/E

© 1997-2002 Deb Evensen
Understanding the cognitive differences associated with a history of prenatal exposure to alcohol is crucial in supporting a child with FAS/E from infancy through adulthood. With this knowledge comes the ability to provide positive behavioral and academic support so that the child does not develop secondary disabilities (i.e., emotional problems, trouble in school, addictions) and is able to develop according to full potential.

Graphic: Alaska VioletInformation Processing Deficits

Difficulty with input, integration, memory and output of information results in an inability to understand cause and effect. This means that, although a child is able to communicate a surface understanding of expectations he/she may be unable (not unwilling) to perform as expected. Developmentally, social and emotional functioning is far below the child’s chronological age. For example, a teenager with FAS could be described as a "stretch toddler" in understanding of social situations. Typically, a child with FAS/E will need consistent management and structure from childhood into adulthood.

Graphic: Alaska VioletLack of Generalization Skills

The inability to generalize information learned puts a child with FAS/E at high risk for getting into trouble during childhood, adolescent, and adulthood years. Because of this lack of generalization skills, a child/adolescent/adult who experiences FAS may be unable (not unwilling) to "see the whole picture," and has difficulty linking ideas together or taking what is learned in one setting and putting it into practice in another.

Graphic: Alaska VioletConcrete vs. Abstract Understanding

A common characteristic of people with FAS/E is the inability to understand the abstract meanings of the concepts which structure our social world. Many are able to "talk the talk, but not walk the walk," and this incongruity leads to misinterpretation of their behaviors/intent by those not understanding the disability. People with FAS/E need a nurturing, stress-free, simple environment with few changes from day to day where lifelong habit patterns of behavior can be learned.

Graphic: Alaska VioletSocialization and Skills of Independence

The emotional/social understanding of a child with FAS/E is far below chronological age. Due to the way his/her brain processes information and remembers what has been learned, it is essential that education be based on daily life.

Graphic: Alaska VioletAnxiety/Frustration Levels

Due to the difficulty a child/adolescent/adult with FAS has understanding expectations and combining ideas to make a whole, he/she can easily be over-stimulated and frustrated. Anxiety can lead to the inability to make sense of a situation or to think things through or "FAS Shutdown". People with FAS/E need a stress-free environment to in order to learn.

developed by Deb Evensen and Jan Lutke