Learning and communication

Learning and Communication Design

August 23, 2021

Learning and Communication Design

Introduction

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are cognitive, behavioral, and developmental conditions exhibited by children whose mothers abused alcohol during pregnancy. Fetuses have no ability to assimilate alcohol, and any presence of it in their bodies has detrimental effects on their brains. According to the CDC (2021), about 2 children in every 1000 live births are affected by FASD in the United States. CDC further estimates that about 1-5% of American and European school-going children are affected by this condition (CDC, 2021). Children with these conditions are emotionally, socially, and academically impaired. Although there is no cure for these conditions, interventions can alleviate their severity. This paper aims to provide solutions to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and their founding theories while providing a systematic design for applying these interventions.

Statement of the Problem

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) occur in individuals whose mothers used alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol enters the child’s body and impairs the central nervous system and other brain parts that control memory, learning, and behavior. Individuals with these disorders may experience physical, behavioral, or learning problems. This group experiences a wide range of behavioral and cognitive difficulties and intellectual disabilities (Williams et al., 2015). For instance, these children find it challenging to pay attention, making it difficult to learn. These children have deficit visual-spatial, hence cannot perform simple tasks like tiling distance of objects in space. These children also exhibit executive dysfunction that inhibits their educational achievements and development. For instance, they have reduced working memory which makes it hard to remember instructions in class. In this case, they forget previous instructions to accommodate new ones. They also have problems handling emotions and get aggressive very often. Furthermore, FASDs result in poor language development for children, which inhibits their social interaction skills. Consequently, they are rejected by peer groups, impairing their social learning opportunities.

Research-based solutions to FASDs

These effects of FASD can be approached through learning and behavior therapies. Learning therapies include various activities carried out within the school setting to enhance children’s cognitive capabilities. Firstly, educators should carry out an evaluation to distinguish FASD from other co-occurring developmental disorders. Children linked to the condition must have special class placements. Teachers must place these; learners in a strategic position to accord the supervision and direct instruction and supervision. Instructors must also practice a slow pace during instructions (Millians, 2015).

Teachers can also use the Math Interactive Learning Experience (MILE) for these children. This is because the children have difficulties in understanding instructions that require higher cognitive skills. During this process, teachers apply the Focus/Plan, Act, Reflect (FAR) techniques. At the first stage (Focus/Plan), the instructors should improve children’s ability to tend to important elements of a problem. In the second stage (Act), children learn to verbalize the steps they used in the first stage. The last stage (Reflect) allows children to share what they learned and recall stages while solving the problem (Millians, 2015). This approach enhances children’s problem-solving, efficiency, and learning readiness. Instructors are able to offer interventions at every stage. They also assess the improvement pace of children at the end of the intervention. Children whose conditions are worse may require extra educational therapies, including speech therapies. Due to poor and slow language development for children with FASDs, speech therapies are essential. Instructors will create out-of-class sessions to offer these services. Teachers can also maximize the use of visual and video learning to maintain learner’s attention.

The second intervention included behavior therapies. “Good Buddies” intervention is crucial for children with FASDs. According to CDC (2021), “Good Buddies” is a childhood friendship training that enhances FASD children’s social behaviors. These children are brought together in friendship-enhancing activities. Such activities include sharing and adapting to peer group play (CDC, 2021). Children can take turns in leading various activities. Such intervention enables children to know how to slip into peer groups and how to abide by the rules of these groups. Consequently, children improve their self-image, self-esteem, and positive social behaviors. Parents and Children Together (PACT) can also enhance self-regulation and executive functions. Parents help their children to develop an understanding of others. They make children aware of specific behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable in social settings. Thus, children develop bonds with peers and parents, making them emotionally and socially adaptive.

Theoretical foundations for FASDs solutions

These interventions are based on three theoretical aspects. Firstly, behavior theory defines behaviors as overt actions and observable manifestations of covert-affective processes. These behaviors differ from individuals, groups, organizations, and communities (Fishman, 2016). This theory enables instructors and policymakers to understand FASDs children’s traits and offer appropriate interventions. It helps to distinguish this population from other peers. This theory is further linked to cognitive and social learning theories. 

McLeod (2020) explores the stages of cognitive development and how it influences children’s behaviors and the ability to acquire knowledge. As children develop, they form a mental model of the world around them. Most school-going children are categorized into preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages. This study’s focal point is the groups within the first two stages. Those at the preoperational stage develop abilities to understand the world through language and mental imagery (McLeod, 2020). Therefore, the use of visuals can help children understand complex tasks and instructions during these stages. They are unable to make logical conclusions and animate almost all objects. Although children with FASD develop at slower rates, instructors can discern their stages of development and offer appropriate interventions. Furthermore, children at a concrete operational stage develop logical thinking, understand conservation concepts, become less egocentric, and develop emotional intelligence. Understanding these stages equips Instructors with skills to handle, evaluate, and determine the effectiveness of interventions.

Lastly, these solutions are based on social learning theory. The theory holds that people learn new behaviors from others in social settings. It holds that individuals reciprocate social behaviors from their interactions. They do this by observing, rehearsing, taking action, comparing, and confirming their belief in new behaviors acquired from social interactions (An, 2014). In this case, children with FASD are understood to be deficient in social skills and exhibit antisocial behaviors. Based on this theory, children with FASD can be exposed to more social interactive tasks to improve their social skills and behavior.

Design Stages for the Solution

The intervention for FASDs children can be designed differently based on children’s characteristics and severity of FASDs. However, teachers and caregivers must begin by evaluating learners to ascertain what conditions they suffer from (Pei et al., 2013). These students must be put into groups of peers who share similar traits. Instructors should then apply classroom interventions, including strategic positioning, kinesthetic teaching strategies, auditory strategies, visuals, and offering direct instructions. For learners with attention problems, teachers must use visuals to maintain the intention. Peer learning and remedial programs must be used for these learners (Buchanan, 2017). Teachers must also provide socially interactive tasks and activities where all learners take roles to encourage peer acceptance. FASD learners must be assessed after every instruction before being introduced to new concepts. Those who attain the evaluation expectations should be gradually introduced to newer knowledge while the rest redo the task. Learners whose conditions fail to improve can be referred to external professionals for further assistance. This design enables teachers to detect any improvement or deterioration of FASD learners in real-time and intervene.

Conclusion

FASD conditions impair learners’ development, behavioral, and learning abilities. Parents who consume alcohol endanger their kids’ mental abilities. These difficulties escalate when children reach school age. They face enormous challenges in socializing, learning, and report insufficient academic achievements. These children have impaired emotions, antisocial behaviors and may develop social withdrawal symptoms. These conditions have no cure, but early intervention can help improve children’s abilities. These interventions include behavioral and learning therapies. Learning therapies involve speech remedies, use of visuals, peer-to-peer learning and. They also involve strategies like Focus, Act, and Reflect, where they are taught basic parts of a task; they are asked to use these aspects in solving a problem and then share their new insights with the class. These interventions are founded on behavioral, cognitive, and social learning theories. Implementation of these interventions must follow a well-structured model to ensure that every child is attended to based on the cognitive processing pace.

References

An, H. C. (2014). Social learning theory. https://www.healthcommcapacity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/SocialLearningTheory.pdf

Buchanan, E. (2017). Using multimodal strategies to teach children with FASD. BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education9(2), 52-56. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1230427.pdf

CDC. (2021). Data & statistics prevalence of FASDs. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/data.html

CDC. (2021). FASDs: Treatments. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/treatments.html

Fishman, D. B. (2016). Behavioral theories. In J. C. Norcross, G. R. VandenBos, D. K. Freedheim, & B. O. Olatunji (Eds.), APA handbook of clinical psychology: Theory and research (pp. 79–115). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/14773-004

McLeod, S. (2020). Piaget’s theory and stages of cognitive development. Developmental Psychology, Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

Millians, M. N. (2015). Educational needs and care of children with FASD. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 2(3), 210-218. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40474-015-0055-5

Pei, J., Job, J. M., Poth, C., & Atkinson, E. (2013). Assessment for intervention of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Perspectives of classroom teachers, administrators, caregivers, and allied professionals. Psychology4(03), 325. https://canfasd.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2013032823241169.pdf

Williams, J. F., Smith, V. C., & Committee on Substance Abuse. (2015). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 136(5), e1395-e1406. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/5/e1395