The article “Autism or FASD?” brought to mind what a retired special education teacher once told me: “A student won’t learn from you unless he listens to you, and he won’t listen to you until he trusts you.” Nearly all of my high school life skills students have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Their common symptom is physical aggression, and I’ve learned this much: Punitive measures work on these kids about as well as punishing a patient cures his cancer.
Meds can take the edge off in some cases. The article states that friends and family can also help these youngsters “to live rich, happy lives.” But what about those who have been passed from relative to relative, foster home to foster home, broken promise to broken promise.
Building trust takes time with these skittish teens. But the retired teacher was right. They can and do learn — and not just functional academics and life skills but also that maybe they are worth something in this world.
— Tony Bickert
special education teacher