Dr. Gindis' participation
in November 2008
Annual Adoption Conference
Where the Joy Begins
Presented by the Adoptive Parents
November 23, 2008
8:00AM - 5:00PM
1300 York Ave.
East 70th St.
New York City, New York
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Cognitive Abilities in FAS Children
Dr. Gindis, is it true that children with FAS tend to deteriorate
in their intellectual abilities and academic work getting older?
What is your experience and is there any research on that?
there is a number of longitudinal research reports (the same individuals
were followed for 6 to 20 years), mostly done in Europe (Germany and
Scandinavia), that have found that individuals with FAS tend to show
lower scores on their IQ tests and lower
academic achievements as they progress through the school years into
adulthood. At the BGCenter we also have similar data: 8 internationally
with FAS that we tested at least 2 times have consistently shown lower
and lower scores
on their cognitive and academic testing.
I would not call this deterioration, however. The word deterioration
means that a person
had attained a certain level of functioning and after this starts losing
it either suddenly
(e.g.: traumatic brain injury) or gradually (e.g.: Alzheimer). What
happens to the
children with FAS is neither of the above. In fact, they have been progressing,
a different pace that their peers at large, and as the result of this
slower pace the
impression of deterioration may emerge. The individuals with FAS condition
to have problems with high-order (abstract) reasoning. In early elementary
problem is not so obvious and they can make it through those years without
noticeable differences. After the age of 12, however, both cognitive
tests and academic assignments
rely more and more heavily on the abstract thinking. At this point the
students with FAS
begin to fall significantly behind the norms designed for their non-handicapped
Cognitive abilities in the children with FAS present a wide range, but
still the majority
of them are in the Low Average/Borderline range with a few in the Average/High
and a significant minority (almost 40 percent, according to some studies)
is in the
Mentally Retarded range. Those who were in the Low Average range start
less proficiently to the tests (both academic and psychological) and
move into Borderline/
MR range, getting even more behind in their academic skills.
The majority of children with FAS are capable to attain what is called
- literacy skills on the 5th grade level. This level of literacy allows
them to master
significant number of jobs (unfortunately this number is shrinking with
the technological progress). The good news is that when individuals
with FAS join the workforce, their weaknesses in the abstract thinking
and immature self-regulation are not as obvious as in school, and they
can get by with the blue color jobs. For significant minority (close
to 40 percent), however, some kind of assistance will be needed at least
through their early adulthood, and some may end up with assisted living
in group homes.
One interesting and, to the best of my knowledge, not previously discussed
is what I call "the reverse discrepancy formula" implication.
I found that in the majority
of those children with FAS that I tested, their achievement scores were
cognitive scores. In other words, they performed academically better
than could be
predicted based on their cognitive scores. It means that cognitive tests
may not be a
good predictor for children with FAS in relation to their learning ability.
Also, a strong
support in the family and the remedial efforts at their school are to
be taken into
consideration. But the bottom line is that the children with FAS can
do better in school
than it may be expected based on their IQ
B. Gindis, Ph.D.