Monday, April 6, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Education

I'm sorry I haven't written in so long! I've been bogged down in papers for my two credit Education Immersion class, lessons for my online Louisiana State University American Literature class, and my Readings in Education course. I finally got my five two page papers out, which is a huge relief, but I have four more to go.

One issue that has come up repeatedly throughout my internship is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Over half of the kids in the school I work in suffer from prenatal exposure to alcohol. They have impulse and attention control issues, which makes class real interesting. There is one second grader who deals with anger management issues, and has repeatedly thrown his chair. It's sad to see how much trouble these little kids have in school, just because their mothers drank while they were pregnant.

According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, when a mother drinks, that alcohol passes straight through the placenta to her child. If her blood alcohol level is 0.08, so is the baby's. This harms the baby's brain development, in particular the areas devoted to memory, attention span, and impulse control.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of overly pessimistic information out there. I ran into one source that claimed that half of FAS-affected adolescents have spent time in jail. It went on to claim that seventy percent of adults with FAS could not live on their own. I have not seen this in the community that I work in, and was surprised to see it in a mainstream city newspaper.

While the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are frustrating, especially considering that they are completely preventable, they do not prevent FAS-affected children from succeeding in life. They just need a little help.

I have seen one little boy make huge strides in impulse control over the course of the last three months. At the beginning of the quarter, he could hardly go two minutes without some sort of outburst. He'd get frustrated in math, and steal a classmate's worksheet. A classmate would say something to him, and he would jump over his desk and threaten to punch the kid. His teacher came up with the idea of a sticker chart to motivate him to change his behavior. When he gets five stickers, he gets two suckers. He earns stickers by staying focused during class, being nice to his classmates, and completing his work. Just three days after his teacher instituted this chart, he shocked me by politely asking for my help, instead of stealing another kid's worksheet! He even used the word please!

I'm not giving up hope. I can see how hard these kids are working. They've already overcome huge obstacles in their short lives, and they will overcome more.

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