The new school year means a change in routine, not only a change from the holiday routine but a change from last year as well. Children may be faced with a new classroom, new schoolmates, new teacher(s), new routines, and new goals. Transitioning from the school holidays back into a classroom, or beginning school for the first time, can be particularly difficult for children and families living with FASD. The Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Network Society compiled these tips to help prepare families for the transition into the school year:
- Start a ‘Back-To-School’ count down calendar. Children with FASD often struggle with changes to routines and schedules. To avoid any ‘surprises’ create or use an existing visual calendar and have the child cross-off the days during the last two weeks of summer holidays as the first day of school approaches.
- It is important for children with FASD to feel safe and secure in their learning environment. This includes knowing and understanding the physical structure. Where are the bathrooms? Where is the gym? Where do they begin their day? Set up a tour of the school to allow your child to see the buildings and all those rooms and places they will need to navigate.
- Prepare! Two weeks before the start of school begin using a schedule (for example, wake-up times, breakfast time, lunch times, snack times, bed times) and the complimentary routines (for example, getting dressed in the morning, brushing teeth, packing the schoolbag) that are similar to what the school days will look like. Don’t forget that a posted schedule, visual routine reminders and step-by-step instructions can help to ground your child in time and space and assist them to accomplish their daily tasks.
- Communication, communication, communication! Every child with FASD has their own unique challenges and strengths and it is important to share these with educators so that your child’s learning experience can be based on their needs. Set up a communication strategy with teachers so that struggles and successes can be heard and addressed in a respectful and timely manner. This can include a daily communication book or emails with educators. You may wish to download and complete NOFASD’s Introduction to Teachers.
- Start planning those daily lunches. Prior to the start of school create your lunch menus that include foods to boost your child’s brain and immune system while meeting their sensory needs. Consider sensory snacks that are crunchy and chewy such as celery, apples and carrot sticks and avoid high sugar snacks.
For some children, the challenges of attending school are overwhelming and families choose to home school. The Home Education Association provides a list of free resources and links which can assist with home schooling.
NOFASD Australia’s website has many resources for families and teachers supporting children with FASD. These include our Introduction to Teachers, a downloadable Word Document developed to assist parents and other carers to share important information about their child with a new teacher. The document provides an overview of FASD and outlines the unique strengths and difficulties of each child to assist a teacher to provide FASD-informed support. The document was originally developed by FASD-CAN in New Zealand, and NOFASD Australia is grateful for permission to reproduce this valuable document.
The Marulu FASD Strategy developed a fantastic resource called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and complex trauma: A resource for educators. It was published by the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre and can be downloaded here. This book contains detailed information about FASD and how it interacts with trauma, and provides many practical strategies for supporting young people with FASD in the classroom.
South Australia’s Department of Education has a comprehensive webpage on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder which can be accessed here. This page covers the education implications of FASD, managing FASD in education and care, supporting children and families with FASD and related resources. This webpage also contains useful templates including a Health Care Plan for Education which can be completed in collaboration between parents and schools, and which can contain detailed information on the best support strategies for each individual child.
Finally, for any individual questions, concerns, or challenges, please call NOFASD’s Helpline on 1800 860 613 or contact us online. We may be able to suggest strategies which have worked for others, or be able to put you in contact with other parents who are raising children with FASD.
Follow this link to read A Call for Educators to Become Informed.
Read more blogs by NOFASD Australia here.