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Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - Reinforcing Positive Behavior

Updated on April 20, 2014


Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Reinforcing Positive Behaviors

Being a foster parent has brought several children with FASD in to our home. Some have stayed for a long time, while others have had shorter stays. It has been my experience that the older a child gets; the more negative behaviors present themselves. Some common ones include, lying, stealing, impulsiveness and not understanding the relationship between cause and effect. This results in confusion when given consequences for their actions (misbehaviors).

I can only speak of my own experience here with children struggling with FASD. Reinforcing positive behaviors has worked much better than giving them consequences for negative ones. To reward positive behaviors builds the child’s self esteem. I’d like to give you an example of one way I did this.

One problem the kids were having was that of not taking proper care of books. They would be thrilled to get new books and look at them but would often tear the pages, rip the covers and crumple up pages. Taking the privilege away of them having reading time didn’t teach them a thing. After the set number of days had passed, they were more than happy to have their reading time back, but would once again misuse the books.


I made reward charts for the children. These can be done by hand on a sheet of paper or you can purchase them at school supply stores and perhaps even dollar stores. The ones I have had 20 squares on the chart and pictures of angels decorating the chart. I wrote each child’s name across the top of her chart and showed them the charts. They were very pleased to see their names written on the charts and wanted them displayed on our walls. Our “quiet reading times” were usually at night, although some times we had them in the day time as well. Each child was given two books to take to their quiet reading spot, which was usually in their bedroom or on a couch. Each time they had the quiet reading time, I would show them the chart beforehand and reinforce the idea that they would get a checkmark if they looked at the book quietly and didn’t tear or damage the book. As long as they gave me the book back in good repair, they would get a checkmark. I told them that when the chart was filled, they would receive a prize. They soon had their charts completed and were thrilled to have earned a prize.

They also are taking much better care of our books.

This is only one method of using positive reinforcement. There are many others, too many to mention here. Praising the child for good behavior pleases them and is much more effective than punishing them for negative behavior.

I will write more on Reinforcing Positive Behaviors another time. Try it; it works where a lot of other methods don’t. I’m not claiming that the child won’t still have problems with behavior. I’m not saying that they’ll ever understand cause and effect or the relationship between action and consequence; unfortunately they won’t. However your day to day life will be more pleasant and less stressful for everyone involved.


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