School district implements training, curriculum for FASD

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, January 12, 2015 10:29pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is continuing to expand and evolve outreach for students diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Training and support programs have reached 400 educators, students and families since the school district identified the education concerning the disability as a priority three years ago, said Director of Pupil Services Clayton Holland.

A support group called, “Putting the FASD Puzzle Together for Success,” is organized “exclusively for parents who have a child with a FASD Diagnosis,” Holland said. The group is continuing to draw in more members at the start of 2015, Holland said.

Deb Evensen, who teaches and moderates FASD curriculum and training throughout the school district, said the level of education being taught in Kenai Peninsula schools surrounding the disability is almost unique.

“It is very brave for a district to do this,” Evensen said. “This (Kenai Peninsula administration) is one of the only districts doing something on this level.”

The disorder is what Evensen refers to as an “everywhere issue.” Every single teacher at some point will teach a student that has FASD, she said.

In 2009, Dr. Philip May proved between 2-5 percent of all live births had some level of the disorder. The Center for Disease Control in 2011 found approximately one in every 100 children will have FASD.

“If you apply the higher end of the statistic to this district, that is more than 400 students,” Evensen said.

Because the support group is in its beginning stages, Evensen said she is asking that any parent wishing to join has had their student given an official diagnosis. She advocates for children receiving as early on as possible.

An early diagnosis can mean a better prediction of how successful someone with FASD will be in his or her adult life, Evensen said. A student who is able to receive specialized education and understanding in their social life will be better able to advocate for their own needs, she said.

“If you can work with kids who have FASD you can work with anyone,” Evensen said.

FASD fits in with other disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Holland said. Students with cognitive, brain-based differences may need additional attention in the classroom if they are not retaining information, he said.

Sometimes, educators may feel that a student experiencing trouble understanding material has behavioral issues, Holland said. The school district’s focus on FASD is one way to decrease the amount of misbehavior and need for disciplinary action, in addition to other programs such as Positive Behavior Interventions, he said.

“The district understands that you have to teach the behaviors you expect,” Holland said. “These are all our kids and that is what we continually try to embrace and foster and cultivate through out the district.”

Eventually Evensen will not be consulting with the school district, Holland said. By that time, the goal is to have built a foundation among school administration, staff, teachers, students, families and community members so that the education and training is self-sustaining, he said.

There are still misconceptions and misinformation about FASD that will hopefully be changed with education such as the programming implemented in the borough school district, Evensen said. For example, 19 of every 20 children with FASD do not have the classic facial features associated with the disability, she said.

The features would only become obvious if a mother drank alcohol during certain days of her pregnancy when the fetus’ face is actually developing, Evensen said. However, every single time a fetus is exposed to alcohol, their brain structure is altered, she said.

The long term hope is that there will be no need for specialized education for FASD, Evensen said.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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