Parenting Children With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders: How Important Are Pre-Emptive Strategies?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASDs are a difficult condition not just for children who have it but to their parents and guardians as well. FASDs require parenting strategies that can help children have their best chance both at home and at school.

A new study conducted by a research team from the University of Rochester in New York found that educating families and caregivers with children who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are ihighly important, PsychCentral reported. The researchers said that parents who attribute their kids' misbehavior to their FASD tend to use pre-emptive strategies more. These strategies are designed to prevent these children's negative behaviors.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are caused by heavy drinking during pregnancy and can be entirely avoided by staying away from alcohol. Children with FASDs have certain physical features including small eye openings, a thin upper lip, and a smooth philtrum or the groove between the nose and upper lip, KidsHealth listed.

Other problems encountered by children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are poor growth (low birth weight and small heads), seizures and other neurological issues (poor balance and coordination), and birth defects (e.g. hearing loss and eye, heart, bone, and kidney problems). Kids with FASDs can also have delayed development and behavioral issues.

Babies with FASDs can be fussy, jittery and have sleeping problems. Older children and teenagers, on the other hand, can exhibit lack of coordination, poor fine motor skills, poor social skills, poor memory and poor problem-solving skills. These kids also encounter problems in school especially in math, are hyperactive, stubborn, anxious and impulsive.

Dr. Christie Petrenko, a research psychologist at the University of Rochester's Mt. Hope Family Center, said that parents or guardians who use pre-emptive strategies on children with FASDs can "change the environment in a way that fits their child's needs better," PsychCentral further reported. These parents favor one-step instructions instead of three-steps because they know that their kids have memory problems and would have trouble dealing with multiple orders.

These parents may also buy clothes that have soft seams for children with sensory issues due to fetal alcohol spectrum. Or they put signs that a certain object should be avoided by the child. These preventive practices help "reduce the demands of the environment on the child," Petrenko added.

Other services and therapies that children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can benefit from are early intervention education services, speech-language and occupational and physical therapy. Classes that teach social skills and counseling sessions with mental health professionals also help.

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