03 Aug

In July 2012, the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Looked After Children published their long-awaited report into the attainment. This report included key recommendations to improve practice. One was that ‘teachers should receive greater training to improve their under- standing of and ability to manage issues such as trauma, attachment and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)’. Members of the working group understood that these conditions can have significant and lifelong effects on the education and life chances of children who have been in care. It could be argued that of the three conditions listed, FASD may well be the most significant but is often the most overlooked and misunderstood. Indeed, in the years since the report was published there have been significant inroads into equipping schools and colleges to address the education needs of those who have suffered trauma and / or have un met attachment needs. However, FASD seems to be the poor relation. FASD can place a significant barrier to learning, but currently is so poorly understood that teachers and schools struggle to provide the best learning environments

I am now feeling more confident that I ever have done about the future for those affected by FASD. We are starting to see a slow change in the UK, especially in Health. Currently NICE is writing the Quality Standards that will be associated with getting a diagnosis of FASD in England and the pathways that those affected will be offered as far as support is concerned. This will be a game changer in the next few years.

Parts of the country are gradually waking up to the condition and increasing numbers of affected children are being identified. Although a diagnosis is desirable, it is a start and not the end. Parents and carers do not always wish to be the experts when it comes to dealing with children affected by FASD. It is hard enough providing safe, consistent and supportive parenting without having to educate those who are meant  to be supporting these youngsters in school.

We need to develop a system in the UK where all the services needed to support families are in one place and working together to promote the best outcomes possible for affected children. Training and best practice should be shared with everyone. If we fail to do this, we will continue to waste money on tackling crisis situations as they arise when much less could be spent earlier on managing the condition. One affected 12-year-old in an English local authority was returned to care because his adoptive family could no longer cope, despite trying their hardest. This sad outcome is likely to lead to a massive waste of potential in a child who, if support had been established earlier, could have achieved much more, as well as being a drain on welfare budgets.

Affected children can be happy in their own educational world and can achieve but professionals, if they are to help them make the kind of progress that we and they desire, need to join them. Waiting for them to join us in the world with which we are familiar will be a long and ultimately frustrating experience.

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