FASD and Levels of Consciousness
© 2005 Teresa Kellerman (updated April 2008)


It has been proposed by philosophers and psychologists that the mature adult can process information at several levels of consciousness, each level developing with maturity, starting before birth until maturity, hopefully sometime before one’s 18th birthday.


Level 1 (0-6 mos.): Sensory awareness – physical sensations, body awareness, pleasure, pain, hunger, satiety, pressure, gravity, touch, smell, taste, sight, sound.


Level 2(6 mos-2 yrs): Emotional awareness – anger, fear, trust, pleasure, contentment.


Level 3 (age 2-6 yrs): Symbolic awareness - language, logic, social relationships, likes and dislikes, dream recall, verbal communication, sense of belonging, egocentric, concrete thoughts.


Level 4 (7-10 yrs.) Self-awareness - self-image, repression, self-censorship, empathy, day dreams, wishes, hopes, personal rules, self-control, experimental creativity.


Level 5 (11-14 yrs.) Analytical awareness – abstract concepts, innovative ideas, controlled imagination, problems/solutions, will power, intentional creativity.


Level 6 (15-18 yrs.) Intuitive awareness – inner vision, creative process, spirituality, critical thinking, idealism, future planning.


The healthy mature adult can process information at all these levels: Sensing a cool breeze, feeling hungry, thinking about what to say to a friend, wanting a meeting to go well, trying to exude self-confidence, imagining the outcomes of a successful partnership plan.


Social development and conscience development parallel these levels of consciousness.  These are neural processes that unfold according to a developmental program, involving neural connections between different parts of the brain.  The reticular formation in the brain stem filters incoming information at the lower levels of consciousness. This filtering system can be impacted by prenatal exposure to alcohol, for instance, with interruption of the myelination of nerve cells.


An individual who has been impacted by prenatal exposure to alcohol may have a stunted social development, an impaired conscience, and may only be able to process information at four, or three, or sometimes just two levels of consciousness, or may not be able to filter information coming in at different levels, depending on the individual’s neurological functional ability at any given time.  The levels at which a person with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder might function are likely to be the lower developmental levels.  One person with an FASD might be functioning at Level 3, another at level 4, another at level 5.  A few may even function at Level 6, but not consistently and not predictably.  One person with FASD might fluctuate between several levels of development from one moment to another.


John Kellerman, a young insightful man with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and mild mental retardation, explains his own developmental process this way: “Sometimes I function at the level of a 4 year old, sometimes I function at the level of a 14 year old, and sometimes I function at the level of a 24 year old.  I can never predict this, and cannot control this.  And that is scary.”


John’s explanation is simple and accurate.  His statement bears repeating and remembering.  Listen to John explain why he is called the "TriLevel Man":  www.youtube.com/TriLevelMan

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