Adaptive Functioning Difficulties

Adaptive function, otherwise known as adaptive behaviour involves many aspects of functioning, such as communication, daily living skills, and social skills. It is common for people with FASD to have adaptive functioning problems resulting in the need for support and structure. An underdevelopment in this area can result in issues regarding daily life skills. These skills include personal hygiene maintenance, eating healthy food, and behaving at the dinner table. That being said, these types of behaviours are easily modeled, rehearsed, and reinforced.

As the individual ages, expectations for independent adaptive functioning grow, which might lead to increased problems in adolescence and adulthood. When these individuals do not meet these increasing expectations at the same rate as their peers, both they and the people they interact with may experience frustration. Adding to this difficulty, it is not uncommon for skills to be unevenly developed, so there may be times when an individual appears to be functioning effectively on their own, and then other times when significant challenges in task demands or environmental supports, and serve to add to frustration and sometimes create the impression of willful lack of effort or interest. Such frustration and misunderstandings can have a negative effect on social functioning and mental health. The area of adaptive function most affected by prenatal alcohol exposure appears to be social functioning.

  • Better self care/hygiene
  • More understanding of consequences
  • Increased ability to make decisions and take initiative
  • More Perception of subtle social cues
  • More healthy friendships
  • Better concentration/attention
  • More Independence
  • Decrease in stubbornness/hostility
  • Greater chance of social inclusion
  • Less teasing/Bullying
  • Closer to standard emotional responses
  • Less Impulsivity
  • Lower Anxiety
  • Less lying, cheating, stealing, and an increase of consideration


What Educators Need to Know about FASD: Working Together to Educate Children in Manitoba with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
FASD overview; common characteristics of FASD; strategies for teachers and parents to assist in meeting the needs of children (from Healthy Child Manitoba, 2010)
Adaptive functioning: pp. 36

Animal Assisted Therapy and Clients with FASD
Video webinar with handouts presented by Kristine Aanderson. Discusses therapy for individuals with disabilities using animals and the possible benefits of this kind of therapy, including increased social intercation and acquisition of life skills (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Building Strengths, Creating Hope (Programming for Students with Special Needs: Book 10)
Overview of FASD; Concepts for teaching and strategies to help with learning needs (from Alberta Education)
Teaching adaptive and social skills: pp. 36-43
Adaptive behaviours and social skills information and strategies: pp. 83-85


Daily Living Skills
Picture card resources for daily living skills for individuals with special needs (from Do2Learn)

Visual Schedules
Visual Schedule resources for individuals with special needs (from Do2Learn)