Can't, Not Won't

Thinking differently

A shift in thinking is needed when working alongside those diagnosed with FASD. Typical behaviour management strategies don’t work. Remember children diagnosed with FASD won’t learn from consequences. Sending them to their room or taking away a privilege may give the caregiver immediate satisfaction or relief but it will not have an impact on the child’s behaviour.

This is a brain-based, invisible, physical disability and is NOT intentional behaviour. FASD is a lifelong disability and individuals affected by FASD will not grow out of their disability.

The shift is from seeing a child as one who won’t do something to one who can’t.

For caregivers

Bad --> Frustrated, defensive, challenged

Lazy --> Tries hard

Lies --> Confabulates, fills in

Doesn't try --> Exhausted or can't start

Mean --> Defensive, hurt, abused

Doesn't care, shut down --> Can't show feelings

Refuses to sit still --> Overstimulated

Fussy, demanding --> Oversensitive

Resisting --> Doesn't get it

Trying to make me mad --> Can't remember

Trying to get attention --> Needing contact, support

Acting like a baby --> Dysmaturity

Steals --> Doesn't understand ownership

Doesn't try --> Worried about failing

Inappropriate --> Doesn't understand personal space


For supporters and educators

Parents, caregivers, teachers or others working with children diagnosed under FASD often take their behaviours personally and forget that the child is often confused, scared and not feeling good about themselves. It is important as a support person to try and shift your feelings from:

Hopelessness --> Hope

Fear --> Understanding, knowledge

Chaos, confusion --> Organisation, meaningfulness

Anger --> Reframing perceptions, defusing

Power struggles --> Working with, rather than at

Frustration --> Trying differently, not harder

Exhaustion --> Re-engergised, new options to try

No good outcomes --> Seeing, supporting strengths

Isolation --> Networking, collaboration


In any situation – shift your approach to intervention!

Traditional behaviour management --> Recognising brain differences

Applying consequences --> Preventing problems

Traditional interventions --> Expanding professional options, creating a toolkit of individualised strategies

Changing people --> Developing effective strategies, changing environments


The above is adapted from 'Trying Differently Rather Than Trying Harder', by Diane Malbin.