By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

A child with special needs faces an uphill battle in school, and needs all the help she can get.

For example, the child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has had her brain damaged because her mother drank alcohol while pregnant. So the FAS child tends to be disorganized, have memory problems and misunderstand instructions. The result in school is poor marks, especially if the teacher doesn't understand what an FAS student needs to succeed.

The FAS child benefits from the proper classroom environment … and an enthusiastic and patient teacher. The "friendly" environment, as described by Sally Caldwell in "Friendly Environments: Programs That Worked", is:

• Orderly. Areas clearly defined by arrangement of furniture and wall decorations.

• Visual cues for illustrating rules of behaviour and proper use of furniture and equipment.

• Uses symbols.

• Avoids crowding (e.g. place child at start of line or end; seat child at outside edge of large group on the floor).

• Structured. Consistent. Routine-oriented.

In contrast, Sally Caldwell says a teacher is unsuitable who is reserved, passive and impatient. And the classroom which doesn't work for the FAS child is:

• Casual. Areas and materials arranged haphazardly or for convenience (e.g. storing things of the same size together instead of all toys together).

• Room decoration that does not clarify program curriculum and class rules (e.g. posters placed in areas unrelated to poster theme).

• Uses only one method of instruction (e.g. instructions delivered verbally only).

• Crowded space.

• Inconsistency. Frequent interruptions in routine.

• Unpredictability of special events (e.g. guests arriving late for a presentation).



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.