Collaborating with parents and caregivers

Introduction for teaching and support staff only

Research has illustrated that the academic, behavioural, emotional, and social success of children with FASD or other neurodevelopmental disability is positively influenced by strong relationships between home and school. Effective communication between parents and caregivers, and their child’s school is the cornerstone of ensuring these strong collaborative relationships.

This information sheet is designed to assist teaching and support staff in communicating clearly and effectively with a child’s family when they recognise a student is displaying challenges and behaviours consistent with FASD and may require formal diagnosis and additional support in the classroom. This information sheet is not designed to be a formal diagnostic tool. FASD can only be diagnosed with a multidisciplinary assessment by health professionals. However, educators can play an important role in identifying and documenting concerns and working with the family, school, and other health professionals to inform a diagnosis. This compilation of behaviours and observations can be provided to a multidisciplinary diagnostic team or other health professional to assist them with the diagnostic process.

It’s important to use a balanced approach when discussing the strengths and challenges of a child with FASD. This information sheet has been created to facilitate this strengths-based discussion. The purpose of this information sheet is to assist primary teaching and support staff to identify concerns early by engaging meaningfully with parents and caregivers. School settings will differ in the processes and procedures they use to move forward; however, strong communication with parents and caregivers will provide the most comprehensive picture of both a child’s strengths, challenges and needs, and this information can then be passed on to the diagnostic team. The cultural and linguistic background of the child and their parents or caregivers should always be taken into account when interpreting behaviours and communicating with families. The information sheet is intended to be completed collaboratively by school staff and parents or caregivers together in a face-to-face or video conferencing meeting. However, some parents or caregivers may prefer to complete the document at home.

More information on engaging parents and caregivers can be found here.

1 Information sheet begins here

Effective communication and collaboration between home and school can play an important role in the academic, behavioural, emotional, and social development of children. Parents and caregivers can provide valuable knowledge and experience that enables teaching and support staff to best support children in their ongoing learning. This information sheet can be used to help educators work with parents and caregivers to identify a child’s needs and engage meaningfully with parents and caregivers.

Below are some examples of common strengths and challenges that parents and caregivers may have observed. It may be helpful to review the list to determine if any of the strengths and challenges apply. Please note, these are just examples and each child might display some, all, or none of the below characteristics.

Examples of Strengths

  • Friendly, affectionate, and loyal.
  • Good with animals and younger children.
  • Great at storytelling, very engaging in conversation.
  • Artistic
  • Musical, enjoys playing instruments, singing or dancing.
  • Generous, compassionate, and kind.
  • Excels at sports and other athletic activities.
  • Hard working, determined, and persistent.
  • Optimistic and motivated.

Examples of Challenges

  • Needs to be retaught the same thing multiple times, has remembered or done something many times but forgets on another given day (e.g., remembers to hold your hand or look for cars before crossing the road some days, but not others).
  • Trouble following more than one instruction at a time or can repeat instructions but has trouble understanding what to do.
  • Easily distracted, has difficulty focusing and maintaining attention.
  • Impulsive, poor common sense, struggles to understand consequences (e.g., discipline strategies like time-out are ineffective because they do not understand or forget why they are there).
  • Difficulty with physical skills (for their age), such as riding a bike or using cutlery.
  • Experiences tantrums or meltdowns, appears “young for their age”.
  • Can be overwhelmed by certain noises, lights, touch, textures, or other sensory experiences (e.g., going to the supermarket can be overwhelming due to the noise and fluorescent lights).
  • Difficulty making or keeping friends.
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, wakes early.

The below section can be used record the strengths and challenges a child is experiencing in the school environment. These may be similar to the examples in the above table or they may manifest themselves in differently. The strengths column can also be used to record a child’s areas of interest and engagement (e.g., painting and drawing, playing basketball).

Enter Strengths

Please complete the field
Please complete the field

Enter Challenges

Please complete the field
Please complete the field

2 Next steps

If a child is experiencing difficulties or problems at school it can be very useful for teaching and support staff to understand how parents and caregivers manage challenges at home. Consistency between support strategies at home and in the school environment can be a crucial element in a child’s success.

Please complete the section below with any strategies parents and caregivers use at home that help complete tasks or achieve goals. It might be useful to consider how a child’s strengths or interests listed above can be incorporated into strategies or solutions to respond to challenges.


  • EXAMPLE: Has trouble following more than one instruction.
  • EXAMPLE: Has difficulty learning or following rules.
  • EXAMPLE: Has trouble falling or staying asleep.

Strategy or solution

  • EXAMPLE: We break instructions into small sections. For example, we avoid saying “brush your teeth, go to the toilet, put your pyjamas on”. We give one instruction at a time and make sure they do it, before moving onto the next step. We also have a poster that shows the steps in pictures.
  • EXAMPLE: She enjoys playing soccer, and this has been really useful in helping to learn the rules and cooperate with other children.
  • EXAMPLE: We set a regular bedtime routine and avoid overstimulating activities before bedtime, such as playing with siblings.
Please complete the field
Please complete the field

Below is a free-text box for parents to record any other strategies or adjustments they think would be useful to support their child in the classroom. These may by physical adjustments to the classroom such as providing calm breakaway spaces, or adjustments to teaching strategies themselves such as using visual aids to accompany verbal instructions.

Please complete the field

Flannigan, K., Wrath, A., Ritter, C., McLachlan, K., Harding, K. D., Campbell, A., Reid, D., & Pei, J. (2021). Balancing the story of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: A narrative review of the literature on strengths. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research.

Hayes, N., Moritz, K., & Reid, N. (2020). Parent-reported sleep problems in school-aged children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: association with child behaviour, caregiver, and family functioning. Sleep Medicine, 74, 307–314.

Mattson, S. N., Bernes, G. A., & Doyle, L. R. (2019). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: A review of the neurobehavioral deficits associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

McDougall, S., Finlay-Jones, A., Arney, F., & Gordon, A. (2020). A qualitative examination of the cognitive and behavioural challenges experienced by children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 104, 103683–103683.

Poth, C., Pei, J., Job, J. M., & Wyper, K. (2014). Toward intentional, reflective, and assimilative classroom practices with students with FASD. The Teacher Educator, 49(4), 247–264.

Sheridan et al. (2012). A randomized trial examining the effects of conjoint behavioural consultation and the mediating role of the parent-teacher relationship. School Psychology Review, 41(1), 23-46

Project partners

Learning with FASD received funding from the Australian Government Department of Health
 Learning with FASD received funding from the Australian Government Department of Health

University-sydney The Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use