by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: Dr. Bradbury, I just read the ‘Assessing FASD’ piece you published. Thank you for helping to shed light on this important subject. We have adopted fraternal twins who were prenatally exposed to alcohol. Our son is quite intelligent and does well in kindergarten, however issues arise at home, where is almost constantly defiant and seems to always have an agenda. In these moments it is so hard to remember that he has brain damage because his behavior seems so intentional. Have you come across any behavioral modifications that help kids on the FASD spectrum to “throttle back” and understand that his persistent demands to have things his way are only causing a greater rift in our familial relationships? Any insight you can provide is greatly appreciated.
Even though your children are twins, the damage can be quite different to each child. Dr. Clarren, a pioneer in this field, used to use the analogy of bubbles, or holes, forming in Swiss cheese. No two are the same. Fetal development is so rapid that even twins can be impacted differently. Further, twins that have not been exposed to alcohol in utero can have very different dispositions and personalities. So I believe I would be aware of the possible effects of the alcohol exposure, but not focus on it too much. Instead, I would implement parenting techniques, such as Assertive Discipline.
Lee and Marlene Cantor developed the concept of Assertive Discipline for educators, but then modified it for the home. Though the book is now out of print, it is still available at Amazon. It is called Assertive Discipline for Parents. It’s an excellent book and it’s easy reading with very practical information. There are five basic steps that I will present below:
(1) Stop yelling. (I am not saying you are a screamer. I don’t know you.) Action, not yelling results in behavior change.
(2) Develop simple rules and expectations.
(3) Decide ahead of times what the consequences will be for violating those rules will be.
(4) Always follow through. Regardless of how cute the infraction was, or how tired you are, you must follow through. Defiance of authority must be confronted. You will find, and probably have already found that different children respond differently to the same consequence. However it is important to define the consequences and follow through.
(5) Catch him being good and reward him. Do not reward every time he is good. Random rewards are much more effective.
I hope this is of some help. I will write more about developing a Token Economy in the future.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]