Behavior Mod - Does it Work for FAS/E?
by Teresa Kellerman, Eva Carner, and Russ N.

Sometimes it might work, BUT only to a limited degree, not the way it works with regular kids, not with the expected results, and ONLY if many other components are also in place. These include changing our OWN behavior and changing or controlling the environment for the child (home, school, public), as well as using role playing with them and good role modeling for real life examples to SHOW them what we expect in terms of healthy behavior. They don't learn from punishments but they do learn from mimicking behaviors of people around them.

I do not include "Behavior Mod" among my strategies that work for FAS/E. There are other techniques that are more effective, such as Deb Evensen's Eight Magic Keys and Katharine Kersey's Guidelines for Discipline.

Rationale for why "Behavior Mod" does not work: Mod = modify, change. The child's ability to change his/her behavior is very limited due to the nature of the FAS/E behavior problems (organic brain damage). The term "behavior mod" is considered politically incorrect nowadays anyway, and many prefer to use the term "behavior management." We can TRY to manage their behavior so that it doesn't interfere with their ability to learn or form healthy relationships. Here is an excellent behavior management plan written by Teri Mauro: Behavior Management Plan for Child With FAE

We want to help our kids learn socially appropriate behavior so they will be more accepted and treated with respect, but we have to be careful about trying to change them. I would like to work on helping others (and myself) to accept our kids as they are. But sometimes it is hard to accept nose-picking-bugger-eating behavior.

Teresa Kellerman

"The greatest obstacle that our kids must overcome is the chronic frustration due to unrealistic expectations." - Dr. Calvin Sumner, in a conversation with Teresa Kellerman.

People who have spent a lot of time studying children and adults with FAS/E describe over and over again their significantly impaired ability to understand cause and effect, their arrested social development and impaired conscience development.

Conventional Behavior Modification techniques do not work consistently. They may appear to work because severe punishment or highly motivating rewards may temporarily increase or decrease the target behavior, but it is only an illusion. It will bring no permanent change or lasting security. What does work is having realistic expectations and providing the appropriate environment. As Diane Malbin has a few catchy phrases that explain what to do when a person with FAS/E doesn't succeed: "Modify the environment, not the child." and "Try differently, not harder".

Now when I discipline Rick I make the consequences natural, I TRY to speak to him as I want him to speak to others (Role Modeling), we practice appropriate behavior (Role Modeling again) and we modify the environment as needed, (all the S-C-R-E-A-M-S).

My son is 23 now and a lot of the behavioral and emotional work we struggle with is because we are trying to undo years of failures from "behavior mod.", "trying harder", not providing appropriate supervision ("external brain") and having "unrealistic expectations". Avoid strife and depression as they become teens and adults by educating your children and yourself.

"The greatest obstacle that our kids must overcome is the chronic frustration due to unrealistic expectations." - Dr. Calvin Sumner, in a conversation with Teresa Kellerman.

The greatest obstacle for our kids and ourselves.

I put it again because I think it's very important.

Read Teresa's page about what works with info that will help you have realistic expectations.

Hope it helps,

Eva Carner

We use several of the ideas listed below, but the one that has proven most effective is 5minutes.

If Geoff (age 6) is mouthing-off, giving attitude to us, or deliberately dis-obeying us, we simply say "5 minutes" -- meaning G. goes to be 5 minutes early. Some days Geoff goes to bed at his normal bed-time (and will get some kind of treat because of it) -- other days, well, he's gone to bed before his 3yr old brother. It's proved to be a decent method for Geoff and it saves us from getting too upset. We keep a chart so we all know -- it helps Geoff also -- particularly when he doesn't have any time....he especially likes telling us he doesn't have "any 5 minutes".

The other thing we do is when we discipline for breaking rules, we let them know the rule that was broken -- we will sometimes have them tell us the rule and how it was broken to (hopefully) bring in cause-and-effect. After we tell them the rule has been broken and what the consequence is we also tell them that we have rules in our house for 3 reasons:
1) we love them
2) we want to protect them
3) we want them to grow up to be a good person

Russ N

FAS and Behavior
FAS Community Resource Center

Last Updated: September 29, 2002