Sensory Motor School-based Activities for Children With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Teachers:  Speak generally to all students by giving commands that sound like requests…..the active student quickly learns to be communicative and talkative if teachers avoid the use of “you” and avoid calling the student by name repetitively.  Avoid personalizing all conversations and refer to the situation, instead of the personality.

Ask positive questions such as “are your notebooks open to the calendar and the first page?”  Depersonalize requests.  Practice among teachers how to speak about ‘the situation that needs to be attended to, rather than the personal “you” need to do it.”   Teachers may want to explain work assignments and tasks, acting as a parallel partner alongside students, saying:   “I noticed the work is not finished.”  Teachers take on the role of partners; focused on the work, not the student.

When the active young child is off task, teachers repeat directions, without personalizing any comments.  Teachers talk to themselves, repeating directions; for example, “I put the schedule booklets out and ready to be picked up. The books are on the morning table.”

When the active student is reluctant or aversive, wrap one arm loosely around student’s shoulders, moving slowly in a 2-step mode, using supportive hand movements, so the active student moves forward and not to either side.  Say, “ we are headed to the work table.” 

The active student and the Teacher take hands, moving alongside each other, talking and moving at the same time.  Start each day with warm ups for students, in order to initiate daily breathing exercises, for five or so minutes, giving students time to adjust with a good stretch, a loud laugh, a chance to move up and down, and make connections with classmates; the goal is to notice each other, acknowledge each other, show facial expressiveness and allow body circulation to flow and facial muscles to tense and then relax.


Arrange a section of the school work areas so that the active student works standing upright in a vertical posture in front of a blackboard, poster board, paper, etc for a part of the morning or afternoon.  The benefits are better coordination and more organized behavior.  This face-front-ahead posture forces the ability to concentrate, reduces emotional and mental confusion and allows the active student to breathe. 

Teachers need to introduce as part of the daily school work routine the concept of  two-at-a-time handling of school implements:  the active student needs to be offered two manipulative objects at the same time throughout the day.  Offer two pencils, two pieces of paper, two paint brushes, two spongy stress reducers and two balls to manipulate or sit on.

When the active young chld engages in refusals, give directions two times, and act as a partner, sitting in same parallel position as the student, observing classmates and teachers who are cooperating .  Purposefully ignore him, giving attention to other students, but have available sight and sound items.  The active student has a degree of cortical vision impairment, poor spatial and regulatory coordination.   The student may “tune out” even moderate out harsh sights or sounds.  There is no need to personalize the behavior; just watch and imitate what the cooperative students are doing.

All students, including the active student, need to learn how to request time alone to regroup, i.e., finding a recess area which provides a quiet place to calm nerves.   Teachers partner with the active student by doing informal breath control exercises, which control anxiety and stress. Breathing helps stimulate both sides of the brain.

Teachers must ask permission of the student to offer gentle massage of fingers and arms in a timeout- peaceful environment.  Lightly rub sides of hand, warming the skin slightly.  As a teacher, move in a pattern that includes using two hands at a time:  teach students to use two hands at once, imitating the teacher. 

Teachers are most effective if work papers, chalkboards, and books are offered two at a time. Yes, two of everything, including counting and writing and other activities.  Heavy, soft, hard, rough, spongy and manipulative objects offered at the same time helps stimulate eye hand coordination.

Teachers need to be guided in their teaching by this two at a time principle for the maximum outcome of stress reduction, the greatest amount of cooperation and conversation.  This simple gesture is the most important method of teaching active, aversive or negative students to use their eye-hand coordination, their visual and hearing abilities, and their ability to make choices or decisions in the classroom.

The active young child, according to their personality, may quickly adapt to forming these two-at-a-time mental “pictures” that force his brain to adapt and attach to people, two at a time, two activities at a time, thus speeding up his rate of listening, cooperating  and learning among teachers, other students, family and friends.

Ask Dr. Susan