Often, elementary school age FASD students are considered very social but overly friendly. They seem to lack an awareness of personal boundaries and invade other people’s territory. While they can be sensitive and concerned about others, eventually, the FASD student begins to bother classmates. They annoy people and push things too far, not knowing when to stop. They are too friendly. Classmates give them social cues that they are being annoying, but the FASD student does not pick up on the cues. Instead, the FASD student perceives social difficulties as someone else’s fault and does not take responsibility for his role.
The FASD student is also very tactile and affectionate. They do not understand the concept of body space and often are physically intrusive. Some of these students stand too close to their peers. Others act sexually inappropriate. While they have a strong desire to be liked by their classmates, they are viewed as very immature. Sometimes they are “picked on” by their classmates. They usually end up playing with children much younger than themselves. Many of these FASD students are lonely and have poor self-esteem.
The behavior of these students is often misinterpreted as willful or attention seeking. Often, it is assumed that poor parenting underlies the poor decisions these students make. As these students become older their behavior is sometimes considered deviant.
I also used to get into trouble a lot at school and at the foster and group home for stealing.
I don’t think I was really trying to be mean or dishonest or steal. I do know that I would want things that other people
had or had made. But I remember just wanting to feel friends or be close to them and having something of theirs
—like stupid things like a letter they wrote or a picture of
them or a picture they made—made me feel like we were friends…
(Copeland and Rutman, 1996)
FASD students have the following deficits, which explain their overly friendly behavior and lack of boundaries. These deficits are associated with damage to specific areas in the cerebral cortex (See Chapter 3).
- These students can’t interpret social cues from classmates because a social cue is too abstract.
- These students are hyper-or-hypo sensitive to touch.
- These students have a disorientation in space.
- These students have poor judgment.