Sunday, 13 June 2010

Unpacking the Labels

At my most recent beginning teacher professional development day we were lucky enough to have a lecture by Dr Frances E. Steinberg on identifying, understanding and some practical solutions for children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HA), Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Autistic Disorder and Asperger's Disorder.

There was much discussion at this point about the different diagnoses teachers had in their classrooms, some even having students diagnosed as both AD/HA and Asperger's, which we learnt is not possible. The outcome was we started to realise how little we knew about these disorders and we were not alone as there are many mis-diagnosed children in our classrooms. One interesting reason for this is that there really are no clinical laboratory tests that can be done to ascertain these disorders. They require a checklist of criteria as well as some exclusions to be assessed. Even with a sound understanding it is a judgement call in the end.

An interesting facts about AD/HD is that their behaviour is always impulsive, therefore if a child can "pause" to check their audience then they are NOT AD/HD. They will often have a range of processing difficulties in one or more combinded modualities e.g: visual/audiitory.  Often a key to engaging them is integrating what thye are good at into curriculum areas. She then went on to discuss AD/HD in more detail along with many practical ideas to implement in the classroom.

When we starting learning about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), I was amazed and horrified to discover it ONLY TAKES ONE DRINK during pregnancy to give your baby this disorder, ONLY ONE! The photos of a baby's FAS brain compared to a normal brain of that age, explain everything. This is probably something we can all expect to see in our classes, and understand along with some practical strategies are the key to helping them learn.

I couldn't begin to cover the extent of ideas and information I gained on this day but I do feel more confident in my own ability to discuss one of these children's condition and learning requirements with professionals and parents. The bottom line for me is as a teacher I  must understand my students to plan to meet their learning needs. 

Do you have any experience or ideas to share?

Photo by crowolf