Sensory and Motor Deficits

Students with an FASD may:

  • Have difficulty habituating
  • Have trouble adapting to change; having to move to a different classroom environment every hour or having a substitute teacher can be difficult
  • Have sleep problems at night that affect their performance
  • Have poor hand-eye coordination or difficulty with touch perception (writing tasks can be frustrating)
  • Need to move while learning

Academic Learning Difficulties

Students with an FASD may:

  • Have difficulty learning early skills like letter and number recognition, estimating, rhyming and sequencing
  • Have increasing struggles as learning becomes more abstract and complex (for example, algebra is much more abstract than addition or subtraction)
  • Learn better by doing, need to work with objects, or have lessons taught using a combination of visual and auditory instruction
  • Struggle with reasoning, comprehension and problem solving


Students with memory deficits from an FASD may:

  • Need directions one step at a time, multiple times
  • Appear to be deceitful when they attempt to recall a sequence of events or when they try to “fill in the blanks”
  • Lose things, forget pencils or homework
  • Need reminders and cues
  • Know something one day but not the next day, or know something learned in one location but not be able to recall the information in a different setting. This can cause challenges with translating what is learned while doing homework to a lesson in the classroom the next day.


Students with language delays or deficits due to an FASD may:

  • Have better expressive language skills than comprehension skills
  • Talk a lot without really saying a lot
  • Not understand idioms, sarcasm, nuance, or be able to “read between the lines”
  • Have difficulty describing their feelings (an abstract concept) with words

Cognitive Functioning

Students with an FASD may:

  • Score within the average range on IQ tests and appear intelligent but have lower or inconsistent performance in school
  • Require assistance managing their day or planning the necessary steps to finish projects
  • Have a widening gap between them and their peers as they enter the teen and early adult years
  • Have slower processing ability

Behavioral Regulation

Students with an FASD may:

  • Appear “moody” or volatile
  • React with more intensity than their neuro-typical peers
  • Be easily overwhelmed or distracted
  • Perseverate (fixate on a thought or action)
  • Rage, shut down or melt down
  • Act silly and immature
  • Require the help of someone who co-regulates them when they cannot self regulate
  • Not understand why they are in trouble
  • Model the behavior of those around them
  • Withdraw and isolate themselves
  • Gravitate toward “comfort” friends
  • Self medicate with illegal substances
  • Prefer to appear ‘bad’ rather than ‘stupid’
  • Do well with people who view behaviors as separate from the person

Adaptive Skills

A student with an FASD may:

  • Be better served by planning based on what they actually do each day (adaptive behaviors) than what they might be considered able to do based on IQ or age
  • Be easily fatigued by work that requires concentration
  • Act younger
  • Learn better with role play and concrete, direct teaching
  • Struggle with a fast paced, typical school schedule
  • Need encouragement and reminders about personal hygiene
  • Be able to add and subtract but not be able to manage having a checkbook
  • Be able to tell time but struggle with time management
  • Have the intention of following through with tasks but lack the understanding of
    how to make it happen
  • Live in the moment
  • Need extra support and supervision