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Communication and people with FASD

For people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), communication is generally fraught with difficulties.

While a child with FASD might want to do what they are asked, whether they are eventually able to do so will depend on the way the instructions are expressed. For example, a neuro-typical child will respond appropriately when asked to pour water into a glass. However, a child with FASD will need to know more details before they take action, such as which glass and how much water.

All people with FASD are different, however there are common themes and issues which occur that we can attempt to address.

The most important thing to remember is the need for concrete communication. instead of abstract language. For instance, in this example instead of the sentence “please fill a glass with water”, a more appropriate instruction for a child with FASD, and one which is more likely to result in the desired response, might be “please fill that glass on the bench. with water from the kitchen tap, up to this line/marking on the cup”.

By better understanding the needs of children with FASD, we can implement the most appropriate method of communication and better understand why people living with FASD do the things that they do.

Learn more

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Visit, or subscribe to, the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association (RFFADA) YouTube channel to see more videos from this series.

If you or your organisation would like professional training on FASD, please get in touch with the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association by phone 0412 550 540 or email elizabeth@rffada.org.


Anne Russell

Anne is the biological mother of two adult children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). She started working to support people with FASD in 2000 and in 2005, her first book ‘Alcohol and Pregnancy – A Mother’s Responsible Disturbance’ was published. In 2007 Anne founded the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association and in 2010 developed the first publicly available FASD training modules in Australia.

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