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Section 7
Preparing a FAS Client for School - Nine Steps to
Effective School Advocacy

Question 7 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed three concepts of the Advocacy Model.  These three concepts of the Advocacy Model included:  appropriate candidates; inferring needs from behaviors; and identifying limitations and strengths.

In this section, we will discuss three concepts for preparing a FAS client for school.  These three concepts include: school cooperation; school advocates; and nine steps to effective advocacy.

Three Steps for Preparing a FAS client for School

♦ Step #1 - School Cooperation
The first step in preparing FAS clients for school is gaining school cooperation.  Because of the client’s deficient learning abilities, the client’s potential school should be informed prior to enrollment.  I suggest to parents that if they sense any hesitation or resistance on the part of school administrators to reconsider their school options. Also, besides administrators, I suggest to clients to contact individual teachers and inform them of the situation. Often, this can be done in letter phone, by telephone, or in person. 

Preferably, I ask parents of clients to meet with teachers in person and to take pamphlets and other educational material in order to better educate the teacher about the client’s condition.  Most importantly, the teacher should be informed that the client does not do well with complex instructions and that any form of punishing retribution is futile and harmful to the client’s self-esteem.

Ginny, age 6, was about to enter into first grade.  Her parents, Jim and Helen, were concerned about her ability to keep her patience during complex instructions.  I suggested that they inform the teacher of Ginny’s short temper and also emphasize that she cannot control her behavior.  The best way to diffuse the situation would be to appeal to her needs and try and resolve her frustrations rather than discourage the behavior. 

Helen met with Ginny’s teacher, Joanna, and explained the problem to her.  Helen stated, "My daughter has had trouble learning since she was born. It’s not that she can’t learn, it’s that she learns in a different way than other children. If she becomes frustrated or confused, she may react angrily. If that happens, it’s better to talk to her than to punish her." 

Think of your Ginny.  How could his or her parents approach the school administrators and teachers about the client’s FAS?

♦ Step #2 - School Advocates
The second step in preparing FAS clients for school is appointing a school advocate. A school advocate can be classroom teachers, counselors, or a school nurse.  However, the advocate should be an employee of the school so that he or she may be on hand if any problems should arise. 

9 Skills of Successful School Advocates
The most successful school advocates can effectively complete the following:

  1. Befriend the client in an advocacy relationship
  2. Provide a safe haven where the client can stop in and chat
  3. Talk to the client regarding concerns, confusion, or misperceptions in his or her everyday life at school.
  4. Interpret past history and behavior
  5. Become a clearinghouse of information on the client, receiving complaints, crisis reports and compliments
  6. Initiate observations of the client in problem settings
  7. Mediate as needed between the student and teachers and between the client and other students
  8. Coordinate between school and parents with respect tot eh client’s needs, perceptions and misperceptions
  9. Give direct help.

Beatrice, age 8, had begun to throw fits in the classroom.  Her teacher, who had been uninformed about Beatrice’s condition, punished her by putting her in time out in a corner, which subsequently humiliated her.  he school nurse, Dorice, recognized Beatrice’s symptoms as FAS. 

Dorice approached Beatrice’s parents, and suggested that she become an advocate for their daughter. Dorice was kinder to Beatrice and much more patient than her teacher. In addition, Dorice had the nurse’s office where Beatrice could retreat in order to escape the pressures of school work. Think of your Beatrice. Is there anyone at his or her school that could be an effective advocate?

♦ Step #3 - Nine Steps to Effective School Advocacy
In addition to school cooperation and school advocates, the third step to preparing a FAS client for school is nine steps to effective advocacy. Once a client has found a willing advocate, I find that it is helpful for him or her to come to a therapy session and learn a little bit more about the effective advocacy process.  I asked Dorice to come in when it was convenient for her and gave her the following nine steps:

  1. Build a relationship with the student by establishing periodic meetings.  Try to establish yourself as the sounding board.  Tell him or her that you will be available when crises occur but will also meet on a regular basis just to talk about things.
  2. Troubleshoot problems and crises at school as they emerge.  The problems encountered are mostly behavior problems, not described as academic problems per se.  Try to develop a clear understanding of what actually transpires when a crises or problem occurs.
  3. Monitor and modify inappropriate sexual behaviors. 
  4. Teach functional skills at every opportunity. Enroll the student in programs the explicitly teach functional skills, particularly those involving organizational skills and coping with anger. 
  5. Facilitate practical work skills and appropriate supervision.  Even people who are lonely and isolated can get personal satisfaction out of productive work. 
  6. Establish teamwork between school and home on the client’s behalf. 
  7. Help the student complete school and plan beyond school.
  8. Help make school a pleasurable experience.
  9. Help everyone understand FAS better.

Think of your FAS.  What advice could you give to his or her advocate?

In this section, we discussed three concepts for preparing an FAS client for school.  These three concepts included:  school cooperation; school advocates; and nine steps to effective advocacy.

What are three concepts for preparing an FAS client for school? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.

Answer Booklet
Section 8
Table of Contents