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National FASD icon education

Students with FASD will present with a pronounced and complex set of needs that can make it difficult for teachers to know how best to support them.

This has implications for the inclusion of students with FASD in the classroom across the range of ages, curricula and educational settings.

In the UK, too little is known about FASD and the approaches that may be helpful in educating children affected. There is currently no UK government guidance on this. National FASD’s research  led by Dr Carolyn Blackburn in 2010 remains among the most in-depth available (see resources below). We are seeking funding to take this project further.

Educators need more FASD-informed training.

Educational strengths of students with FASD

  • Students with FASD are often ambitious and have a range of practical strengths which are useful in their educational careers and throughout life.
  • Many are articulate and have engaging personalities. They enjoy being with other people.
  • Many have learning strengths around Literacy and practical subjects, such as Art, Performing Arts, Sport, and Technologies, although they often have difficulties with comprehension,
  • While they have working/short-term memory difficulties, rote learning and long-term memory can be strengths.

Educational difficulties of students with FASD

  • Developmental Difficulties
  • Medical Difficulties
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Behavioural Difficulties
  • Social Difficulties
  • Emotional Difficulties

How does Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder impact on child development?

Characteristics of FASD will change over time and children’s developmental age will differ from their chronological age, as students with FASD will follow an asynchronous developmental pathway. Generally, however, the following characteristics may be observed:

Indicators and characteristics often seen in newborns or Infants

  • Low birth weight
  • Small size
  • Difficulty sleeping – unpredictable sleep/wake cycle
  • Failure to thrive
  • Feeding difficulties including weak sucking reflex
  • Heart defects, kidney problems, or skeletal anomalies
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound and easily over stimulated
  • Poor fine motor control
  • Poor gross motor control
  • Seizures, tremors, or jitteriness
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Vulnerable to ear infections


Indicators and characteristics often seen in preschool aged children

  • Missed or delayed developmental milestones such as walking, talking and toilet training
  • Increased emotional over-reaction and tantrums
  • Impulsivity and hyperactivity
  • Difficulty with gross and fine motor skills.
  • Lack of understanding of danger and stranger danger
  • Small stature
  • Speech delays (may include poor articulation, slow vocabulary or grammar development, or perseverative speech)
  • Difficulty in learning new skills that other children find easy
  • Difficulty with co-ordination and balance and muscle control

Educational difficulties of students with FASD

  • Developmental Difficulties
  • Medical Difficulties
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Behavioural Difficulties
  • Social Difficulties
  • Emotional Difficulties

Characteristics often seen in primary school aged children

  • Attention deficits and hyperactivity
  • Language difficulties (delayed development or difficulties with expressive and/or receptive language)
  • Learning difficulties
  • Difficulties with short term memory
  • Poor impulse control (often seen as lying, stealing or defiant acts.)
  • Small stature
  • Social communication difficulties (may include being overly friendly with strangers and peers, immaturity, being easily influenced and difficulty in making choices).


Indicators and characteristics often seen in adolescents and young adults

  • Difficulties with abstract reasoning
  • Difficulty in understanding cause and effect/anticipating consequences
  • Lack of appropriate academic achievement
  • Low self-esteem
  • Memory impairments
  • Pronounced impulsiveness (often seen as lying, stealing or defiant acts)
  • Poor judgment
  • Hyperactivity/inattention
  • Ego centric behaviour leading to isolation from peers
  • Immaturity in social and emotional development
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour

Sources: Carolyn Blackburn, Primary Framework and Secondary Framework (see below)


FASD in Focus – Characteristics by age

FASD in Focus – Education Profile

FASD in Focus – Tips for Educators

Virtual Schools and FASD

Teaching a Student with FASD

Primary Framework

by Dr Carolyn Blackburn

Secondary Framework

 by Dr Carolyn Blackburn

Fact Sheets for Educators

The FASD Hub Scotland have a series of fact sheets for educators 

Understanding FASD: What Educators Need to Know

Ayrshire and Arran NHS


See our 1-day and 3-day training options, delivered with Seashell – developed with expert input under a DHSC grant


Introduction to FASD Course – developed with support of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership

Check out for resources to use with young  people with FASD to help them understand and own the diagnosis and to learn coping strategies. The Me and My FASD toolkit was created as part of National FASD’s partnership with Seashell, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. The above photo is from the interactive comic on the website that includes a special section about school that can be used to help students identify strategies that help at school.

Behaviour management

National FASD favicon

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