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The American Journal  of Occupational Therapy recently published an article on FASD entitled Neurocognitive Habilitation Therapy for Children With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: An Adaptation of the Alert Program by Wells et. al.

The authors carried out a neurocognitive habilitation group therapy with the goal of  increasing self-regulation in kids with FASD. The therapy consisted of a 12 week program using techniques adapted from the Alert Program, in which children learn to identify their state of regulation by recognizing when they are over-aroused (their engine is running “too high”), under-aroused (their engine is running “too low”), or at an optimal state of alertness (their engine is running “just right”). The program incorporated a family/caregiver education component, traumatic brain injury treatment strategies, and self-regulation strategies for the child based on their arousal level and situational factors.

Difficulties with self-regulation tie into executive function (higher level cognitive functions, such as inhibition, problem solving, attention, planning, etc) which is a common area of impairment in individuals with FASD. The overall goal of the study was to “improve executive functioning skills and emotional regulation related to the children’s home and school environment”. The Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF), a parent questionnaire, was used to measure executive function behaviours, and the Roberts Apperception Test for Children (RATC) was used to measure the child’s problem solving skills by assessing the child’s interpretation of common interpersonal situations.

Both measures showed significant improvements in the group of children who received the intervention over those who did not reveal the intervention. This could indicate that neurocognitive habilitation therapy can improve executive functioning and emotional problem solving skills in children with FASD. This finding is particularly valuable because the intervention was performed in a group setting, which is much more akin to real life than a clinical one-on-one setting. The child’s home and school environments generally contain many other people, with numerous stimuli and distractions. The neurocognitive habilitation program creates a group setting and teaches children to get in touch with internal indicators of dysregulation in order to manage their emotional regulation in the presence of external stimuli and distractions.

Read the full article here.

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