Translating Misbehavior

A Strategic Skill for Helping Students With FASD


Getting fidgety during an assignment may mean, “I don't understand what to do.” Try restating your request differently and have the child demonstrate what you asked to check for understanding.  Do not simply ask if the child understands, as you will likely get a “yes” answer meant to please you.


Hitting another child while standing in line or walking in the hall may mean, “That kid bumped into me and startled me.”  Make sure that the child has space at the head of a line, or has a buddy to help walk him or her from one class to another.  Get an occupational therapy consult to check for sensory integration disorders.


Being able to repeat instructions back to you, but still not being able to do what is asked may mean, “I know what you said, but I don't know the steps for how to put that into action.” Being able to repeat what was said and being able to do it are very different tasks for the brain.  Do not assume defiance. Instead, make sure your instructions are concrete and literal.  Break down the work into specific steps and discuss how to approach each step.


Having trouble with anything that requires sequencing, ordering, or taking turns may mean, “I lost track of the order and I don't know where to start.” Try restating your request one step at a time, or put the steps for routine activities on a small chart.


Becoming upset or unfocused when a schedule change occurs may mean, “My usual understanding of how and when things are going to happen has changed, and it upsets my whole being.  It will take some time for me to adjust.” Give as much advance warning about schedule changes as possible and preview the transition with a brief, concrete description.  Have a plan in place for when changes do occur-10 minutes in a calm corner, a buddy to review the change, or the patience to wait for the student to readjust.





Source: Reach to Teach: Educating Elementary and Middle School Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, DHHS Pub. No. SMA-4222. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2006.


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