FASlink Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society

Helpful Hints


adapted for AE students by Spira and Evensen from O'Neal and Moreno Tips for Teaching High Functioning Persons with Autism

1. AE students experience difficulty with organizational skills regardless of intelligence or age.


  • - verbal cues
  • - clear visual demonstrations
  • - physical cues
  • - video-taping sessions
  • - scripted role-playing
  • - songs which remind the student what to do next (lt's clean up time)

2. AE students experience difficulties with abstract thinking and concepts.


  • - avoid abstract ideas when possible
  • - when abstract ideas are necessary use visual cues
  • - simple language
  • - numerous/varied examples from the student's environment

3. An increase in unusual or difficult behaviors likely indicates an increase in stress - sometimes a feeling of loss of control in a situation or confusion.


  • - try saying, "Do you have something to tell me? show me? ask me?"
  • - allow the student to go to a "safe place" and/or a "safe person"
  • - have the student change activities
  • - decrease the demands placed upon the student
  • - allow the student some quiet time in a different area of the room

4. Do NOT take misbehaviors personally.

5. Most students with AE employ and interpret speech quite literally.

To decrease confusion avoid:

  • - names such a Pal, Buddy, Wise guy, etc.
  • - idioms (save your breath, jump the gun, etc.)
  • - sarcasm

6. Be concrete when dealing with AE students.


  • - provide numerous examples from the student's natural environment
  • - avoid vague questions (Why?)
  • - avoid essay type questions. AE students rarely know when they have said enough or if they are properly addressing the core of the question.
  • - demonstrate and role-play situations

7. AE students sometimes experience difficulty learning a skill.


  • - break the skill into smaller steps
  • - present the skill in more than one way (visually. verbally, physically) and use concrete, multi-modal examples
  • - use simple language
  • - teach the skill (i.e., describing) through a topic (i.e.,animals) that will motivate the student
  • - teach the skill in the environment that the student is expected to perform the skill

8. Creative applications of behavior management techniques are some times effective. Employ Integrated Environmental Learning (IEL) techniques to assist in making certain the student understands the expected skills. Further, it is important to keep the individual's ability/developmental level in mind.

9. Consistent treatment and expectations from all people involved in the student's program is vital. Solicit involvement from parents / guardians, village elders, etc.

10. Positive involvement from the adults in the child's home setting should be attempted.


  • - send notes home
  • - telephone
  • - make home visits
  • - to adults and share positive behaviors the student exhibits in class
  • - invite the adult to participate in classroom activities. The visit should be structured so the adult can achieve positive interaction with his/her child.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:

What Schools Can Do

1. Establish an FAS/FAE TaskForce

  • To be a resource center for school
  • To formulate FAS prevention activities
  • To coordinate in service training on FAS
  • To develop school policy on FAS
  • To formulate plans for helping children with FAS/FAE

2. Set up an FAS/FAE Support Team

  • To accept referrals on suspected children
  • To develop a therapeutic plan for each child
  • input from all school personnel involved
  • review school records
  • refer for psychologic testing
  • possible parent conference
  • To be a support team for school personnel

3. Refer child suspected of FAS for psychologic testing

  • Standardized IQ test
  • Standardized Achievement test
  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale
  • Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (Teacher, Child, Parent)

4. Select a personal advocate for child suspected of FAS

  • To befriend child as an advocate
  • To receive input from child re: perceived injustices, misperceptions, confusion, concerns
  • To receive input from teachers and staff with complaints (and compliments) about child
  • To mediate between child and teachers, child and other children

5. Talk it over with parents

  • Not a formal conference, just the advocate
  • Discuss school's concerns
  • Discuss psychological testing globally
  • Discuss possible role of FAS/FAE
  • Recommend referral to dysmorphologist and/or discussion with family doctor
  • Be supportive and non-definitive

6. Develop a therapeutic plan

  • Reduction of "challenging" deficits
  • Work around cognitive deficits
  • Foster success somewhere
  • Enhance self-esteem
  • Develop social skills
  • Supervise behaviors closely
  • Develop appropriate job skills

Ann Pytkowicz Streissguth Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195