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 student 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 student 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 STUDENTS WAIT TO ATTEND THE FASD CLINIC
After a referral has been made, and depending on the diagnostic clinic, students 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. It can be helpful to connect with the family or caregivers about the recommended supports.
Building a support team… It is important to develop and foster a school support team for the student and their caregivers, supporting both their strengths and struggles, in an effort to promote success and decrease possible conflicts. Keeping in contact with the family or caregivers can help to strengthen opportunities for collaboration and student success, such as face-to-face meetings and/or communication books/emails. What strategies are best? Start with asking caregivers what works best at home. You may be able to integrate these strategies into 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 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 a student to attend the FASD Clinic, there are many things that schools can do to support the student, their family, and staff of the school. It is important to engage all school staff in understanding and supporting students with FASD. One of the first things schools are able to do is educate themselves. Many schools also have people in their districts who are trained in supporting students with FASD and supporting school staff. Accessing these resources is vital. These professionals can play a role in mentoring school staff, helping to create academic and behaviour plans for students, and provide training around FASD and how it changes our work with students.
In Alberta there are a wide variety of professional development and educational resources available to schools, including:
- FASD: Strategies not Solutions… http://www.faslink.org/strategies_not_solutions.pdf
- Teaching Students with FASD… https://education.alberta.ca/media/385139/teaching-students-with-fasd-2004.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/
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
ATTENDING THE FASD CLINIC
The FASD clinic is often a two-day clinic. The student 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 the student 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.
Be a part of the process! Typically, there is an opportunity for the school the be invited to a post-clinic conference with the family and the Multi-disciplinary FASD Clinic team to learn about the assessment findings, the student’s strengths and brain-based struggles, in an effort to inform strategies and appropriate services. The student will either be given a diagnosis of FASD or not. The school support team can benefit greatly from attending this conference, learning more about the individual learning needs of the student and how prenatal alcohol exposure has impacted their development, based on the assessment. Request to caregivers/guardians that the school support team is a part of the FASD Clinic process as much as possible, as this shares a genuine interest to learn how to best support the student and their caregivers/guardians.