A Review of “Educating children and young people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders”

A Review of “Educating children and young people with Fetal Alcohol SpectrumDisorders”

Carolyn Blackburn, Barry Carpenter and Jo Egerton

This book draws on a great deal of research including the information provided via the
educational research project (FAS-eD Project) and the findings from the Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Project – both of which the authors were involved in. It begins with a description of Fetal/foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); its history, diagnosis, causes and prevalence.
Chapter 3 aims to increase awareness of how FASD may impact on learning. This begins by identifying strengths and challenges that the different cognitive patterning may present to learning success. These may include health
related challenges such as poor sleeping and eating patterns; learning difficulties such as receptive and
expressive language; difficulties with organisation and attention plus specific problems in maths.
Behavioural difficulties such as hyperactivity, anxiety; social difficulties relating to interaction and
understanding boundaries and finally emotional difficulties relating to awareness of their difficulties
and self-esteem are all possible challenges.
Chapter 4 describes in some detail the strategies that can form the basis of a teaching and learning
framework for pupils with FASD and includes case studies to support and illustrate points made.
Chapter 5 looks at the complexity of issues relating to FASD that includes the profile of a 18 year old
with the condition that identifies the differing levels of competence/maturity in areas that include
money and time concepts (8 years old level), reading ability (16 level ) etc.
Chapter 6 moves onto the family and the impact having a child with FASD can have on them. This
is sensitively written and considers issues relating to parental guilt and anxiety.
The final chapter acknowledges that in terms of developing pedagogy to optimise support for pupils
with FASD, there remains quite a way to go.
A very well researched book that is an easy read.
This book would be of value to all staff in schools seeking answers to providing teaching that better
meets the needs of pupils with FASD.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Interdisciplinary Perspectives. (Eds) Barry Carpenter, Carolyn Blackburn and Jo Egerton. Published by Routledge: London, 2014.

Reviewed by Liam Curran Independent Social Worker/Certified FASD Educator
It is without question that this book is presented at a most interesting time of British social policy, as the country considers the sensitive and ethical challenge of criminalising mothers who consume alcohol heavily during pregnancy.  This book quickly informs us that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are cited to be one of the leading causes of childhood disability in the 21st century. We also learn in the chapters that follow, that children and young people with FASD are currently the largest group of children within our fostering and adoptive services. The authors demonstrate eloquently how adoptive parents must become their own experts in dealing with FASD, as there is a “paucity of professional knowledge” (pg65)
This lack of professional knowledge is stated repeatedly by many contributors throughout this book, with both the fostering and adoptive parents struggling in the caregiver role due to untrained and unskilled professionals. We read what happens when society fails to see these children, resulting in a high percentage of adolescents suffering school failure, addiction, homelessness and criminal justice issues. It is great to see Jo Egerton’s advice on transitions to adulthood – reminding us that FASD is a disability across the lifespan. The focus on the adult side of living with FASD is still in its infancy in many research communities.
This book provides a wealth of contemporary insights into a rapidly ascending public health issue of main stream public importance in the 21st century. The human and social cost burden of FASD permeates all aspects of our society today. The book is unequivocal in its call to public health agencies to initiate robust programmes of prevention throughout all facets of society and community.
This book is highly recommended to social policy personnel, university educators or allied health professionals and frontline professionals in children’s services. This book can and will greatly enhance society’s knowledge and understanding of this devastating but preventable disability. In doing so, it is hoped that we may see these children and adults who are living with FASD within our social services provision and respond appropriately.