Memory Enhancement:
Helping the child with FASD to learn and remember

©2002 Teresa Kellerman

These are strategies that can help a child with FASD remember what he/she learns:

John remembers things that are associated with strong emotions (joy, excitement, fear, etc.) This is true of most people, but even moreso of children with FAS disorders.

There may be limits to what level of learning they can achieve in certain subjects, especially math. John could learn his multiplication tables through 7, but he forgot them the following session. To this day, he cannot remember what 2 X 4 is. They may reach a plataeau in math or reading and not be able to progress beyond that point. When helping a child with FASD learn something, we first need to do an assessment to see where he/she is functioning and start there, not at age level or grade level, but at the developmental level for that child at that time.

Once we get the child to remember (routines, rules, lessons, etc.), we must still consider two things that we cannot teach the child: impulse control and good judgment. Also, once they learn something and it is in their head, they may or may not be able to retrieve it on any given day, and one day they might remember and another day they might not, all depending on neurological function at the moment. Meds can help reduce problems with impulse control, but not all the time. The child cannot learn good judgment, that is something that cannot be corrected as it is directly due to permanent brain damage, mostly the frontal lobes.

Memory processing is a neurological function that does not work well in children with FAS disorders. There may be limits to how well the child can process information. It is important to recognize and accept these limits so as not to burden the child with unnecessary frustration and stress. Find an activity or subject that the child enjoys, find a mode of expression for which the child has some talent (drawing, singing, painting, playing music, etc.) and encourage the child to learn new ways to express the talent that are pleasant and comfortable for the child. Music is one of the best ways to enhance memory for the child with FASD and everyone will enjoy the lesson!

One added reminder: The number one way that a child with FASD learns is by imitating the behaviors or actions of others. Healthy role models, at home and at school, are extremely important for our kids. Every experience we have with a child can be a learning experience. What will your child remember about his/her experience with you?
Helpful hints from Eva Carner:

Social stories and social groups are good techniques. Itís important to remember that their social skills, or lack thereof, are one of their most important and handicapping deficits so we need to plan for and expect that; and provide protective supervision and structured social activities.

Sometimes I think the improvements I see are just a function of maturity but in any case he is more eager to please me and be ďresponsibleĒ than he was in his teen years. So Iím not really sure that it is anything I have done. Except that I kept him alive and away from bad influences until he could mature.

One technique that works very well with our kids is social scripting (which is probably the same as social stories but maybe more practice involved?) where you take them through a situation and have them practice a response. Since our kids donít generalize well we canít expect this to work in as many situations as we would like but every time they fail itís an opportunity to teach the response yet again in another situation.

A neuropsychologist that is trying to help Ricki said the trick with kids like ours is to bypass the short-term memory problem and get the correct responses into long-term memory as habits and routines. So where they break down is in novel situations where they have no ďhabitĒ developed.

When teaching social scripts I recommend you teach adult standards of behavior and language. It will take a long time to learn these skills and will be very hard to change once learned so you really donít want to try and re-teach a response later in life. Just my 2 cents.

There are lots of materials I believe, developed for children with Autism that would help our children tremendously. We have a lot of the same problems they do. The sad thing is that people with FASD are superficially chatty and friendly and that keeps others from recognizing the depths of their delays, instead they are rejected and punished for immature behavior that is not under their control. If there is one thing you could do to help your child it is to protect them from the chronic failure and frustration that drives so many to hang with the worst of kids (other rejects and rebels) and reject and rebel against the community that has rejected them.


Deb Evensen's 8 Magic Keys
All-In-One Homeschool Resource Center
Teaching kids with FAS
A New Kind of Teaching
A Message For Educators
FAS Training for Your Child's Teachers
Dr. Calvin Sumner's Tips for Parents and Teachers
Educational Strategies by Darla Hess, M.Ed.
BC Ministry of Education Strategies for Classroom
BC Ministry of Education Memory Skills

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Last Update: January 4, 2004