Children With FASD and Behavior Issues:
Getting Inside Their Heads


© 2003 Teresa Kellerman


Does your child have difficult behaviors?  Is your child impulsive?  Does he or she make the same mistakes over and over.  Does your child have problems interacting with peers or playmates?  Does your child have a hard time showing respect to parents or teachers or other authority figures?  When it comes to functioning in every day life, many children and adults with FASD have some difficulties.  Depending on the age, the level of functioning, and extent of alcohol damage, this disorder might take on different manifestations.  One child might push and shove other children without any apparent provocation.  Another child might flit from one thought or activity to another.  One child might have emotional outbursts for no obvious reason.  Another child might be obsessive or compulsive about certain behaviors.  Some children will be aggressive, others may be unusually friendly to others, to the point of being inappropriate or vulnerable to dangerous situations.  One child might have unreasonable fears, yet have no sense of real danger.  Any of these behaviors would be considered “normal” for a child or adult with FASD.
There are several factors that behavior.  Some are external in the environment, and others are internal and are related to damage to the brain in the womb.  Some affected children will only have a few, others will have many of these behaviors.  Try to identify these neurological factors, then you can address appropriate solutions.

1.      Sensory issues:
            Sensitivity to labels, seams, or elastic
            Inability to sense cold or hot temperatures
            Sensing a light brush as if it were a blow
            Responding to a bump with aggression
            Prefers to touch, but not to be touched
            Startles easily to sudden noises
            Overly sensitive hearing
            Blocks out loud speech
            May hear only parts of spoken direction
            Easily overwhelmed in the middle of chaos
            Easily overstimulated by environment
            Sensitive to dietary ingredients and meds
2.      Visual-spatial issues:
            Mixing up left-right, front-back
            Not having a sense of where they are
            Getting “in your face” or standing too close
3.      Attention deficits:
            Not focusing well on task at hand
            Getting easily distracted from task
            Hurrying through one activity to another
            Not finishing what is started
4.      Memory deficits:
            Forgetting rules or directions
            Needing constant cues and reminders
            Forgetting the consequences from yesterday
            Remembering the rules too late
5.      Self-perception issues:
            Don’t see themselves as others see them
            May not be cognizant of appearance
            Self-centered but not self-aware
            Socially and emotionally immature
6.      Lack of motivation:
            Just might not really care how they behave
            Rewards and punishments are not effective
            Desire to be appropriate is not internalized
            Give up to easily in face of frustration
7.      Planning issues:
            Inability to think ahead to plan action
            Inability to think about the consequences
            Inability to set long-term goals
            Inconsistent impulse control
8.      Poor judgment:
            Knows how to behave, but does it anyway
            Thinks no one will notice the misbehavior
            Makes the same mistakes over and over
            Conscience means don’t get caught
            Cannot measure the risks accurately
            Cannot weigh the risks and benefits well
The last one may be the most difficult.  Poor judgment may persist even when all the other developmental milestones are accomplished.  The important thing to remember is that these factors are biological in origin, and not always within the control of the affected individual.  What we can control and change is their environment.  By modifying the environment, we can optimize their success and their ability to control their behavior. 

Factors that Affect Behavior
FAS and the Brain
Fasstar Enterprises
FAS Community Resource Center
Revised November 25, 2003