Early studies showed that students with FASD had disrupted high school experiences that included suspensions and expulsions, and that they eventually dropped out of school (Streissguth et al. , 1999). However, findings from a more recent study demonstrated that in the right environment, students with FASD can graduate from high school (Duquette, Stodel, Fullarton, & Hagglund, 2001, in press).
Sixteen adolescents and young adults from the United States and Canada (9 females, 7 males) participated in the Duquette et al.’s qualitative study that also involved 37 parents of children with FASD. The purpose of the study was to examine the educational experiences of individuals with FASD, with a view to determining what factors related to their persistence in high school. Among the data on school experiences were the responses of adolescents and young adults to items about what FASD means to them. Some participants did not know what FASD was. One teen responded, “I am not too sure.
” Others described it in terms of prenatal drinking: “When a mom drinks too much alcohol, the alcohol goes down into the brain of the baby. It can affect the brain more than other kids. ” Still other participants viewed FASD as a personal limitation. One teen said, “FASD means that I am not like other kids, harder for me to learn and such. ” Another participant described the effects of FASD in school: “Knowing I have limitations, and I have to ask more questions to understand something. ” Another individual stated that FASD was “a personal obstacle that I must learn to live with.
No pill can fix what I have. I can only learn to live the best life I can with what I have. ” Characteristics of Students With FASD Students with FASD have difficulties with impulsivity and executive functions (e. g. , attention, planning, organizing, self-regulation, and self-monitoring) and are often first diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); (Streissguth, 1997). These students’ processing and memory difficulties may result in a diagnosis of learning disabilities.
Some of these common learning and behavior characteristics exhibited by students with FASD are their inability to generalize from one situation to another; being overwhelmed in stimulating environments; difficulties predicting outcomes and learning from consequences; problems with mathematics, time, and money; and an inability to retain information (Goldschmidt, Richardson, Stoffer, Geva, & Day, 1996; Mattson & Riley, 1998). FASD is the leading cause of intellectual disabilities (Abel & Sokol, 1987); however most individuals with FASD have IQs in the normal range (Streissguth, 1997).
Many of them also have good verbal abilities that tend to mask their deficiencies and give others the impression that they do not have a disability. Moreover, most of these students are educated in general education classrooms as either full-time or part-time placements. Hence, given the range of learning and behavioral problems associated with FASD and the potential for teachers to misunderstand the nature of FASD, it is not surprising that many students are met with a lack of empathy and are denied accommodations; these responses, in turn, often lead to frustration and thoughts of dropping out of school.