In the province of Alberta, there are several Multi-disciplinary FASD Diagnostic Clinics. Professionals on the multi-disciplinary team may include clinic coordinators, social workers, developmental pediatricians, neuropsychologists, occupational therapists (OTs), speech and language pathologists (SLPs).
A Multi-disciplinary FASD Clinic team is able to determine impairment through a comprehensive assessment process, which can help to determine appropriate strategies, supports, and services for the child or youth, based on the outcome of the assessment. It is important to understand that FASD is a lifelong disability and each individual living with FASD is impacted differently.
MAKING A REFERRAL
Referrals to a Multi-disciplinary FASD Diagnostic Clinic needs to be made by a doctor, as this is a specialized diagnostic health care service. The child or youth should be at least 6 years of age, with confirmed maternal alcohol use during the pregnancy. Check with your local clinic for more specific information. Also, gathering sensitive information about maternal alcohol use during the pregnancy is best supported by professionals with the FASD Clinic team and confirmation of maternal alcohol use does not assume a diagnosis of FASD
If you would like a referral package and/or would like more information from an FASD Clinic near you, it is best to contact the clinic directly. Click the following link for a list of Multi-disciplinary FASD Diagnostic Clinics in the province of Alberta from the Canada FASD Research Network
WHILE CHILDREN AND YOUTH WAIT TO ATTEND THE FASD CLINIC
After a referral has been made, and depending on the diagnostic clinic, your child or youth may be placed on a waitlist. Waitlist times can vary and be as long as two years. Clinics do their best to manage waitlists and will often provide families, caregivers and guardians with recommendations for supports while waiting. During this time, it can be helpful to connect with your child or youth’s school to begin developing a school support team and learn what supports are already being provided to support the individualized learning needs of your child or youth. Connecting with schools can also be a great way to ensure consistency for your child or youth and keep the school informed about the clinic process, in addition to communicating information, supports and resources that the clinic has shared with you.
Building a support team… It is important to develop and foster a school support team for your child or youth, supporting both their strengths and struggles, in an effort to promote success and decrease possible conflicts. Keeping in contact with the school can help to strengthen opportunities for collaboration and student success, such as setting up face-to-face meetings and/or communication books/emails. What strategies are best? Share what works at home! Strategies used at home could be transferred to the classroom/school environment. Sharing strategies (or “what works”) between home and school also has the opportunity to increase consistency between environments and decrease possible stressors.
Although the FASD assessment will capture the strengths and brain-based struggles of your child or youth, you do not need to wait for this assessment to start creating clear and consistent expectations, in addition to using specific and concrete instructions. Predictable environments which place an emphasis on social, emotional and physical well-being are also important to increasing success at home and at school.
Although the FASD assessment will capture the strengths and brain-based struggles of the individuals, you do not need to wait for this assessment to begin evidence-based practice of relationship-based mentoring supports, creating clear and consistent expectations, and specific and concrete instructions. Predictable environments which place an emphasis on social, emotional and physical well-being are also important to increasing student success in the school setting.
Putting supports in place… While waiting for your child or youth to attend the FASD Clinic, there are many options for support. At the school level, it is important to engage all school staff in understanding that your child or youth is suspected of living with FASD. One of the first things caregivers and schools are able to do is educate themselves, and look closely at what supports and strategies are working and already in place. If you are connected with a support person from a community agency, it may be helpful to share this with schools. Also, you may learn that the school (or school district) has people who are trained in supporting students with FASD and supporting school staff. Accessing supports at the school level, but also supports for yourself can be vital.
In Alberta there are a wide variety of professional development and educational resources available:
- FASD: Strategies not Solutions… http://www.faslink.org/strategies_not_solutions.pdf
- Alberta FASD Learning Series… http://fasd.alberta.ca/fasd-learning-series.aspx
- Engaging all Learners: Supporting Students with FASD… http://www.engagingalllearners.ca/il/supporting-students-with-fasd/
- 8 Magic Keys: WRaP Schools YouTube Channel… https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChuAycUoRt_HkcbdXnKiV_Q
- KNOW FASD: U of A Educational Psychology and Canada FASD Research Network… https://knowfasd-webpro.ualberta.ca/
- What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know about FASD… https://www.gov.mb.ca/healthychild/fasd/fasd_caregivers.pdf
After a referral has been received and processed, caregivers/guardians will be contacted by the FASD Clinic for additional paperwork/requirements to be completed. The school may also have paperwork to complete prior to the student attending the FASD Clinic, and as part of the clinic process, some Multi-disciplinary FASD Diagnostic Clinics require a psycho-educational assessment (within the past 12 months) for IQ and Academics. Often times, this is completed by the school and/or could be financially supported by Child and Family Services when Child and Family Services is the guardian of the student. The FASD Clinic will inform you about any requirements which will need to be met.
ATTENDING THE FASD CLINIC
The FASD clinic is often a two-day clinic. Your child or youth participates in assessments conducted by professionals on the multi-disciplinary FASD team: neuropsychologists, occupational therapists and/or speech and language pathologists, and developmental pediatricians.
While your child or youth is busy working hard in their various assessments so the multi-disciplinary team can better understand possible areas of injury to the brain (such as motor skills, language, memory, attention, executive function, impulse control, emotional regulation, and social skills), caregivers/guardians also have a role in the clinic process. Caregivers/guardians are able to offer a unique perspective of the child or youth’s strengths and struggles in everyday experiences, capturing their experience at home, school and in the community. This information is important for getting a better picture of the whole child, and to also gain an understanding of early childhood experiences. Paperwork completed by the school will also inform the assessment process.
Invite the school to be a part of the process! After the assessment is complete, the caregivers/guardians will then meet together with the Multi-disciplinary FASD Clinic team for the post-clinic conference to learn more about the assessment findings, your child or youth’s strengths and brain-based struggles to inform strategies and appropriate services. Your child or youth will either be given a diagnosis of FASD or not. Either way, this can also be a great opportunity to invite the school to learn more about the the individual learning needs of your child or youth and how prenatal alcohol exposure has impacted their development, based on the assessment. The school support team can benefit greatly from attending this conference, learning more about your child or youth and also be able to ask school specific questions to the FASD Clinic team.