Janey had FASD and was diagnosed when she was 10 years old. Her adoptive parents who were attuned to her needs had been pleased with her academic success up through the fourth grade. As she entered the fifth grade at a new school, however, she seemed to be at psychosocial risk because of her maladaptive behaviors, which isolated her socially. Although Janey had an IQ score in the normal range and was passing all her subjects (particularly favoring science), she’d been kicked out of Girl Scouts and made a laughingstock among her classmates because of the “whoppers” she told—unbelievable stories with sexy, gory details.
The school nurse, recognizing Janey’s need, became her advocate. Every day from then on, Janey took her sack lunch into the nurse’s office and ate with her. This allowed the nurse to carefully monitor the day’s activities, assess Janey’s stress level in relation to her various academic subjects, and provide Janey with some respite from her most stressful activity – peer interactions. The nurse, her advocate at school, was also in close touch with her parents, her advocates at home. Working together, they gave her enough support to get her through her first year at the new school while she brought her social behaviors under better control.
The FASD student has complex needs. In the school, there are many adults assisting these students experience a successful education, in spite of the many challenges these students face. To assign one person, a school-based advocate, to check in with the staff, the classroom teacher, the parents, and the student on a regular basis is invaluable. An advocate is someone at the school who works on the student’ s behalf. Advocates can be nurses, classroom teachers, resource specialists, school counselors, administrators, speech and language specialists–anyone who is comfortable and able to take on this role.
…she would listen to me and tell me all the good things that she saw about me. I never had that with anyone, really. I think that’s what made the difference in grade 7. She made me feel good about myself and that made me turn myself around.
(Copeland and Rutman 1996)
… I would like to have a counselor that I can go to see whenever it feels like it’s too much to handle in the class. I need to be allowed to just leave the class or the hall when I feel like my head is spinning from too much movement around me.
(Copeland and Rutman, 1996)