Students with FASD have low self-esteem because of the many difficulties they encounter due to their prenatal exposure to alcohol. Often, the FASD student is not diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, so their disability remains hidden. Their learning differences and behavioral difficulties are attributed to laziness, attention seeking, and other explanations that blame the student. “If only he would try harder!” is a common lament of their teachers. Most of these students experience failure and frustration, because no matter how hard they try, they are not successful.
The best way to help a child feel good about himself in school is to make it possible for him to learn.
J. Rosner (Lasser, 1999)
These students get into trouble at school and at home. They do not understand why they are in trouble when they have difficulty with cause-and-effect. They do not know how to correct mistakes when they have difficulty generalizing. They confabulate and tell adults what they think they want to hear because they have memory difficulties and cannot remember the sequence of events. The FASD student is given repeated reprimands; teachers are disappointed and frustrated with their behavior; parents are exhausted dealing with them.
As a result of this inability to follow the rules and understand what’s expected of them, the FASD student believes he/she is “dumb,” “lazy,” or just “bad.” Furthermore, FASD students struggle with social skills. Developmentally, social skills lag far behind what is expected for the typical student. The vast majority of FASD students are immature, and they are considered peculiar or weird by their classmates. Desperately wanting to be well-liked and included by their peers, the FASD student often becomes the class scapegoat. The poor judgement that FASD students exhibit alienates them from their classmates. The FASD students feel excluded in their classrooms; they are the last to be chosen for games and group activities. On the playground, they stand near their peers, hoping to be included in recess games. The FASD students often feel lonely, rejected, unhappy, and confused.