Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada


FAS: Starting a New School

FAS: Starting a New School

Tips to Remember for FAS: Starting a New School

FAS: Starting a New School

All children react when starting a new school, whether they have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or not, but kids with FAS can overreact to the situation. The following tips for starting a new school stem from my own experiences with FAS grandchildren.

  • Before school begins, drive by the school while out shopping, etc., using a positive tone to remind the child it will be their new school.
    • Tour the school with your child before the start date.
  • Take your child to meet the teacher. Then ask the child to draw/paint a picture of their new school and teacher. Post it on fridge and admire it in front of the child when family or friends visit.
  • Take photos of the school and interior as a reminder for the child of what to expect and post them on fridge. Apply colorful, funny stickers to the photos.
  • Do a count down a week before on the calendar. Use fun stickers. Encourage your child to cross off the days.
  • If you work, take a photo of yourself smiling at your job then remind the child that is where you will be, and you will be thinking of them the entire day.
  • Acknowledge separation anxiety and its consequences.
  • Explain there will be something special waiting for them on their return: favorite food, dollar-store items.
  • Let the child ask as many questions as needed. Smile whenever you mention school. It’s important to keep the mood upbeat.
  • Prepare the child the night before by preparing the lunch, laying out clothes, and stuffing backpack, avoiding a rushed atmosphere the following morning.
  • If friends will be attending the new school, remind your child of who they are.
  • Reassure the child as much as possible, but don’t give in to pressure.
  • Have an emergency contact at the ready in case the child is dismissed early due to behavior.
  • Expect problems so you won’t be disappointed.

FAS: Starting a New School

The best people to ask for advice around starting a new school, are children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and one of those children is my youngest granddaughter with FAS who is now a teen.  Following, are her strategies for teachers educating students with FAS. She insists all the strategies worked for her, plus, she thinks my blog is cool and helpful to others, and wants to get involved.

“Thank you, darling, and congratulations on this defining moment as you take your first step toward advocating for children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I love you and look forward to many more of your posts”

My youngest teenage granddaughter with FAS, suggests the following strategies for teachers. She told me, I just typed:

  • It helps if the child knows the teacher well before starting the school. Have more than one meetup with the teacher before the day arrives so the child remembers who the teacher is. (Grandma thinks this a great idea. Perhaps several meet ups over the month of August could be arranged with the teacher)
  • Supply fidget toys for the child, i.e. stress balls, floam, mini stuffies, available from any dollar store by either teacher or parent. Teacher must not get agitated if the child uses the fidget toys a little too noisily during a class.
  • Absolutely NO YELLING on the teacher’s part. It makes things worse and the loud noise upsets the child.
  • The teacher should give advance warning before ending one subject and beginning another.
  • If the child is becoming overwhelmed, distract the child with another activity.
  • If the child finds it difficult to write down instructions, have them take a photo (cell phone) of the instructions instead, i.e. from the chalk/white board and read the instructions from there.
  • To raise the child’s confidence promote them to helper of a chore you know they can do.
  • Supply free time on electronics, board games etc., as a reward for positive attitude.
  • Supply stuffies for recess/sick time.
  • If a fight with another student ensues, ask for an explanation then instruct the child to walk with a friend while listening to music to allow for calm down time.
That is interesting! Each one of the strategies has helped my granddaughter achieve success at school. But I hasten to add she has an amazing teacher, which helps no end when parents are advocating for their children’s education. As this is her first contribution to this website, please leave a comment of support as she steps out of her comfort zone to help others!

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I.E.P. & I.P.R.C.

When my mentally disabled grandchildren were young, I enrolled them in a private Christian school. By doing so I believed they would benefit from the one-to-one monitoring the learning centre provided, and the help and instruction they received was impeccable, especially from the kindergarten teacher who, despite their disabilities, taught all four the basics of reading and writing related to their specific age group.

But as time progressed, it became obvious that their mental challenges were impeding their learning and so, as the Christian school had no alternative programming for disabled students, it was necessary for me to make the decision to take them out of the Christian school and place them in the public school system. Since then they have received a lot of help regarding their disabilities including an education assistant and an IEP (individual education plan: See – What is an IEP?) and, in September 2012, the two older children were registered in a specialized program which focuses more on learning independence for daily living, rather than on the ABC’s.

However, experience has taught me the importance of communicating with the school staff in order for the children to receive the help they need. Before the two older grandchildren qualified for the specialized program, a psycho-educational assessment had to be completed for each  of them and IPRC meetings (See – What is an IPRC?) had to be attended, but above all, the children’s resource teacher is to be commended for her advocacy of them being placed in a specialized environment. For this, I thank her profusely, and pray all other parents of disabled children are as fortunate as I in receiving help such as hers.

Another resource  is after-school programming. This can provide respite for the caregiver, and also remove the disabled child from the after-school neighbourhood play which invariable leads to bullying of the child by neighbourhood kids. In the after-school programme they can play safely and under supervision and benefit greatly from the structured routine.

What is an IEP?

I initially registered my grandchildren in a private Christian school where an alternative program for disabled children was not available. But as time progressed it became obvious that they needed specialized programming so I placed them in a public school. It was then I heard the initials I.E.P. and had no idea what it stood for or how it was to be utilized in my grandchildren’s education. Now I understand that IEP stands for Individualized Education Program: a legally binding document that explains exactly what special education services your child requires.

When I attended my first IEP meeting at my grandchildren’s new school, I learned that the IEP was developed by each child’s teacher and learning resource teacher who, together, had taken into consideration their recent provincial report cards, my assessment of their needs, earlier psychometric assessments, verbal reports from their previous school, and reading, math and language assessments. The IEP also recorded areas of strengths and needs, and noted the reason for the development of each IEP.

Also a list of accommodations to each child’s learning needs were recorded, i.e. Instructional Accommodations, Environmental Accommodations, and Assessment Accommodations. These provide suggestions on how the child can be best helped in the classroom, such as, buddy/peer tutoring; extra time for processing; strategic seating, and use of technology/calculators, etc.

This was followed by a list of Learning Expectations, Teaching Strategies, and Assessment Methods for each of the child’s learning problem areas, such as: Math, Language, and English, etc. This IEP was used throughout the school year to help each child’s level of achievement improve, with a new IEP established annually if necessary.

The IEP meeting was attended by myself, the learning resource teacher, the teacher, and a caseworker overseeing my grandchildren’s development. But the meeting does not have to be limited to mostly school staff. If a parent or guardian would like other members of the community who he/she feels could add extra insight into the child’s needs, for example: a psychologist, a therapist or social worker, it can be requested.

It’s important not to feel intimidated during these meetings. At the first IEP meeting for my grandson, I remember having the IEP placed before me and being led through it one item at a time, but due to my nervousness at being surrounded by staff who appeared to know a lot more about my grandson’s needs and IEP’s than I did, I had difficulty following along, but when asked to sign the IEP, I did so without hesitation when in fact I should have taken it home first to study it and return it signed when satisfied. It would also have been a good idea to go prepared with appropriate questions and comments instead of sitting with my head hung down in embarrassment because of my uncertainty of what an IEP actually was.

What is an IPRC meeting?

By the time I attended an I.P.R.C. (Identification, Placement & Review Committee) meeting I understood more about the specialized programming for children with special needs. The IPRC meeting was scheduled for two of my grandchildren when it became obvious their disabilities could not be served by an IEP alone. A committee decides whether or not a child should be identified as having special needs that fall under one of Ontario’s Ministry of Education categories. The IPRC’s objective is to ensure safeguards surround the student to ensure his/her full learning potential is reached.

Either the parents, guardian or school staff can request an IPRC, with the parent being notified at least ten days before the meeting takes place. The time and date can be changed by the parent if inappropriate to their schedule. Remember, you have the right to be present and participate in all IPRC dialogue about your child, and it’s in your, and the child’s, best interest for you to attend every IPRC meeting.

Those usually attending the IPRC meeting are the student’s teacher, resource teacher, guidance counsellor, principal, psychologist, a school board representative and the parents. Using information from the staff and parents, the committee will form a recommendation for placement of the student, and the parents will be asked to sign a document agreeing to the committee’s recommendations.

All other information submitted by the child’s doctor’s or other professionals involved in his/her diagnosis must be taking into consideration by the committee, and is usually done so before the meeting takes place.

According to the Ministry: If everyone is in agreement, the statement of decision may be signed at the IPRC meeting and a copy given to the parent — but parents may also take the document home to review it before signing.

The statement of decision must include:

  • whether the Committee has identified the pupil as exceptional
  • where the Committee has identified the pupil as exceptional, the decision must include:
  1. the Committee’s description of the pupil’s strengths and needs
  2. the categories and definitions of exceptionalities identified
  3. the Committee’s placement decision
  4. the Committee’s recommendations, if any, regarding special education programs and services.

A key element of the IPRC decision is the proper identification of the child’s learning needs. The Statement of Needs on the IPRC document should include all the areas for which special education support is required. There is no limit on the number of needs that may be included on the IPRC document.

For information regarding Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board programming contact 905.527.5092 or visit their website at