Article Summary: Teaching Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to Use Metacognitive Strategies.

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Background

Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders experience diverse disabilities that are caused by cognitive impairments, attention and memory deficits, challenges in learning, communication and language. They also struggle with flexible thinking, decision-making, problem solving and working memory. Fortunately, with appropriate interventions, their attention, memory and learning skills can be significantly improved. ‘Metacognitive training interventions’ teach students to understand the ways they want to learn and help them understand their thinking, have shown much promise in children with FASD. This study by Makela and colleagues (2019) aimed to investigate how children and adolescents (6-18 years old) with FASD would use Metacognitive tactics.

Main findings

  • Current study was a part of a bigger intervention program called ‘Cognitive Carnival’ – a 12-week long computerized game-like intervention program that was designed to improve working memory and attention skills of children with FASD.
  • The researchers identified 26 tactics used by seven children/adolescents belonging to four major categories of Metacognitive tactics:
    • Taught
    • Prompted
    • Spontaneous
    • Mastered
    • With these tactics, children were able to do basic demanding tasks

Recommendations

  • Strength-based Interventions: Using ‘abilities’ of children with FASD rather than focusing on their disabilities in school-based interventions
  • Provide opportunity to for them to ‘focus, plan, act, and reflect’ and thereby develop their skills and thinking
  • Using additional support methods such as organized and structured activities as well as visual and auditory aids to enhance their memory, increase attention and decrease distractions
  • Educators/Teachers should be trained to understand when and how to use metacognitive strategies with these children
  • Teachers could initially act as an ‘external brain’ in these activities and gradually allow children to learn more independently with limited support from their coaches

Take-home message
Currently, there are many successful learning interventions for children with FASD. Using ‘Metacognitive tactics’ that help children ‘think about their thinking’ are a strong addition to current programs and can significantly improve attention, memory, problem solving, and working memory of children with FASD. These interventions also help children to control their behaviors. Teachers knowing when and how to use these interventions can immensely help children and adolescents with FASD to achieve their leaning goals and improve their skills.

Authors: Marnie L. Makela, Jacqueline R. Pei, Kimberly A. Kerns, Jennifer V. MacSween,

Aamena Kapasi, and Carmen Rasmussen

Journal: The Journal of Special Education

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