FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a brain-based condition caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. FASD includes FASD with sentinel facial features and FASD without sentinel facial features (previously FAS, pFASD and ARND).

Because exposure to alcohol in utero causes structural, functional, and cellular changes in the brain, FASD is considered an invisible brain-based, physical disability. This means most people with a FASD don’t have physical signs but exhibit behavioural symptoms.

Changes at the brain level will be expressed through changes in behaviours. The prevailing paradigm for managing behaviours assumes person is in control and able to change, and that the behaviours are purposeful. Current techniques to address behaviours focus on trying to change the person by providing consequences, both good and bad, so that individuals will learn what behaviour is appropriate/acceptable. These are most often not effective and lead to escalation of behaviours and deterioration of relationships. Why?

Because individuals with FASD have brains that work differently. For example, they may process information more slowly, have difficulty with executive functioning, memory, abstract thinking, understanding, receptive language, and trouble modulating their emotions. In addition, and very importantly, a person living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder typically develops/matures more slowly than his/her peers.

To help a person with FASD succeed, we need to think differently: from trying to change the person and the behaviours to understanding what causes the behaviours (differences in how the brain works), providing strengths-based accommodations and environmental changes so we can prevent challenges before they happen.