CAMP UNITY: Help for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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By: Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor, 21 July 2014

Accessed on: 25 July 2014

Commentary by: Krystal Glowatski

While the discussions around prevention are more popular than ever, one initiative is focusing on intervention. In Brantford, ON Camp Unity is being offered for the fourth summer. The camp takes in youth ages six to 18 who live with cognitive disabilities such as FASD. The overall goal of the camp is to fill the gap in learning caused by the summer break.

Campers do not have to be diagnosed to participate in the camp, although camp director Nicole Schween states that approximately half of the campers are diagnosed, while many display other problematic symptoms associated to FASD such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavioural issues.

The camp features lessons in an informal manner such that campers don’t necessarily realize they are “learning.” Many life skills are taught such as how to use technology, cooking, gardening, arts and crafts, and physical activities. From personal discussions with CBO workers in the world of FASD, it sounds like the campers strengths are being identified, rather than their weaknesses – an effective strategy that has been recommended time and again.

Additionally, the camp feature signs such as caution tape and stop signs, providing clear direction to campers. There is also a room where campers can go to calm down. While this space isn’t described in detail, to be effective with a child living with FASD, such a room should be minimal in stimuli.

While prevention is an important aspect in the approach to FASD, there is no way to 100% prevent FASD in today’s society. Initiatives like this are extremely important in helping those who do have FASD. The event hosted by Dr. Michelle Stewart that was held in Regina, SK in April 2014 focused on how to work with those who have FASD. We will soon be releasing the final report from the workshop titled “FASD at the Frontline: Dialogue and Strategies for New Outcomes,” which will feature many recommendations brought forth by our presenters and participants at this event. If you work at the frontline or know someone living with FASD, stay tuned for an informational and useful final report coming soon!

FASD program big success at Dryden school

FASD program big success at Dryden school

By: Grace Protopapas, Kenora Online, 18 March 2014

Accessed on: 24 March 2014

Commentary by: Sarah Cibart

Given the FASD Research Project’s upcoming workshop on strategies for new outcomes, this article appropriately highlights a progressive initiative being taken to adapt the learning environment for children with FASD.

At Open Roads School in Dryden, ON a new adapted classroom setting hosts children with FASD of various ages and abilities. One unique feature of the “FASD room” is that it covers colourful and distracting display boards and keeps toys and games hidden to minimize unnecessary distractions for the students.

“…a big thing is [that] we provide a safe environment to build their self esteem” says teacher Chona Dufrense as she boasts the effectiveness of the adapted learning environment.

So far there are only four students enrolled in this program. The ultimate goal for these students, says Dufrense, is integration into a larger classroom setting. This process, she says, will be very different for each of them. Her focus is playing to each of their diverse strengths.

As awareness of FASD continues to grow in Saskatchewan, the idea of an adapted FASD classroom within our schools becomes more manageable. With high rewards such as building strength and confidence for youth living with FASD, as well as supporting educators who struggle to meet the diverse needs of FASD students in a non-adaptive setting, the pros of an “FASD classroom” seem to outweigh the cons. With this in mind, it may take time and work to ensure youth with FASD feel safe and accepted in a separate adapted learning setting, and that social inclusion remains an important goal of educators and mentors.