Parenting adopted or foster children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is certainly challenging work. Creating an Environment for Success for Kids with FASD requires that we be well-educated and plugged into resources available to our families to support us as they grow into young adulthood.

As our adopted and foster kids with FASD grow into tweens and teens, they are naturally inclined to seek more independence with typical young-adult responsibilities and privileges. Our parenting game has to change and flex with their needs and abilities.

Just like we do when parenting our neuro-typical kids, we must find ways to equip our kids with FASD for life’s adult challenges. We have to find tools to set them up for those tastes of success that will encourage them to continue to succeed.

Creating an Environment that Supports Success

We recently found this fantastic resource for families living with FASD. We’ve taken their suggestions for creating an environment that supports success and targeted them specifically for you who are parenting a tween or teen with FASD.

Remember that these are general suggestions for you to consider. Implement them based upon your individual young person’s abilities, skills, and needs.

Girl Playing the violin

1. Build on His Gifts

Determine what unique skills and talents your teen possesses and find ways to capitalize upon those gifts as building blocks for other life-skills.

  • For the teen who is particularly musically gifted, a class at the community college for site reading or music theory might also empower her with study skills, opportunities for social interactions, and time management.
  • A tween who loves animals can learn empathy, nurture, personal responsibility, and task management, in addition to the primary pet care that is his job description as a volunteer at the local pet shelter.

There are many unique skills that your child possesses! Helping him find his niche is a great opportunity for both learning and attachment-building.

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2. Stay Curious About Your Child

To support your tween or teen fully, keep asking yourself about who he is and what “makes him tick.” Ask yourself questions that help you focus on his abilities and gifts as well as how his brain injury affects his actions and reactions.

Teach him to try to ask questions of himself too, both by modeling and by simple conversations that aim to equip him to think through the issues he might face. That kind of give and take between you can build strong trust and confidence for future interactions.

We love this quote from Supporting Success for Adults with FASD:

Success is built on staying curious about the person and building a relationship of trust that is about working with the person, rather than at them.

3. Language Matters

Understanding and interpreting language are quite often challenging for kids with FASD. Here are a few key things to remember to help him successfully process what he is hearing.

  • Keep conversations short and concise.
  • Use direct language without metaphors or euphemisms or odd figures of speech.
  • Limit the choices you offer him and keep those choices positive in nature.
  • Be consistent in how you communicate.
  • Be okay with regular reminders of simple daily tasks.
  • Seek a balance of speaking at his developmental levels while talking issues through respectfully & modeling adult interactions.
  • Be patient as he grows into these skills.
cluttered desk

4. Environment Makes a Difference

A chaotic environment can make your adopted or foster child with FASD feel out of control and unable to process conversations or tasks. For a kid who struggles with executive function or language processing, it’s essential to have your living space be clutter-free, simplified and orderly. Here are a few ways to reduce the risk of overstimulation:

  • Create checklists together and teach her how to use them.
  • Train your family to return objects to their proper place each time they are used.
  • Label drawers and closets, or keep clutter behind a curtain or closed doors.
  • Streamline your living spaces with an eye toward light, colors, sounds, smells, textures, and even décor.

Want a few more Tips for Keeping Distracted Kids on Task?

5. Safeguards are Important

Formal safeguards for our kids are crucial and ensure their safety and well-being. For a foster or adopted child with FASD, those formal safeguards can include educational services, therapists, and day-care providers. If you don’t have those in place, your local school district or your child’s case-worker should be able help you accomplish that.

It’s just as crucial to develop informal networks for your tween or teen with FASD. Relationship-based safeguards will opportunities for learning social skills, an emotional outlet, and plain old fun.

Ask yourself questions like these to start crafting a plan for informal safeguards:

  1. Who are my child’s friends? How can I encourage those friendships? Is there a good variety in her friendships?
  2. Are there local opportunities where she can offer community-based volunteer service?
  3. Does my child have a safe place where she can both grow in her social skills and friendships AND learn how to build her own networks as she increases in independence?

It Comes Down to Relationship

As you navigate the tween and teen years with your child affected by FASD, you CAN guide him toward healthy independence and successful social interactions. The trust and confidence that you build between you will be foundational to guiding him toward success.

Having people in our life who care about us is one of the most important ways to feel safe and valued. Having friends to talk to, places to go for fun, and the opportunity to be involved in our community not only adds to the satisfaction we feel about life, but also helps build protection and provides support for us when we feel vulnerable. ~ Supporting Success for Adults with FASD

We hope that these ideas will support you both as your child grows and learns. Even if they don’t all fit your circumstances, maybe they can get your creative juices flowing to help your son or daughter with FASD face adulthood with concrete steps for success.

Are you parenting an adopted or foster child with FASD? Have you begun laying any of these plans in place for your child to taste success as he grows? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image Credit: Pawel Loj; Genevieve