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Chapter 5: The FASD Student & Learning Issues

Overview of Intellectual and Cognitive Abilities of the FASD Student

While certain behavioral and educational characteristics have been identified with FASD, it is important to note that this is a varied population. FASD students cross all socioeconomic backgrounds. Students with FASD are affected differently, and they must be treated individually. Each FASD student is unique, presenting strengths and weaknesses.

The intellectual abilities of students with FASD differ tremendously. While FASD is the leading cause of mental retardation, IQ scores fall within the range of 20 to 120, with the mean falling within the borderline of mental retardation. ARND has a higher range and its mean is in the low-average range. Many students with FASD have intellectual abilities in the normal range. However, FASD students with IQ scores in the average range can still have serious organic brain damage and express characteristic behavioral and learning difficulties associated with this disability.

As discussed in Chapter 4, FASD students are placed in a variety of educational settings, depending upon their individual needs. There are success stories of young FASD students who thrive in school. These students are able to learn; however, they learn differently. With the support of educational modifications and/or accommodations, some students have graduated high school; others have even gone on to college. Adults with FASD can be found in a variety of occupations, such as teachers, artists, counselors, administrators, musicians, and computer programmers.

I would like teachers to know that we learn differently than others. Simple tasks like taking notes are very difficult.
Teachers need to explain things in simple words.
(Lasser, 1999)

As educators become increasingly familiar with FASD, more students will be identified. In the past, these students were not identified and misdiagnosed. Some of them were diagnosed late. For FASD, behavior and learning issues can be puzzling and frustrating for the educator, the student, and the parents.

In addition to the varied intellectual range exhibited by these students, there are learning difficulties common to FASD students.

In this chapter the following learning difficulties are discussed in detail along with effective strategies for addressing each problem:

  • Difficulty with information-processing and memory
  • Attention difficulties
  • Difficulty with abstract thought and conceptual thinking
  • Math difficulties—especially computational math
  • Reading and writing difficulties—especially reading comprehension and organization of writing
  • Problems with executive function