Impulsivity and Risky Behaviour

Individuals with FASD tend to show high rates of impulsivity and risky behaviour. Impulsivity becomes a concern in young childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood along with unpredictable behaviour and risk taking. Risky and impulsive behaviours may show up in many different forms in individuals with FASD. 

Developmental Considerations

In childhood, impulsivity may appear as a lack of self-monitoring or seeming unable to learn from consequences. A child's difficulty with executive functioning can result in some physical danger such as running into the street. The best way to counter this is constant supervision in risky situations and a repetition of the rules that keep them safe.

In adolescence and adulthood, impulsive and risky behaviours may show up as numerous secondary disabilities such as dropping out of school, drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency, self harm or suicide attempt, and inappropriate sexual behaviour or promiscuity.

Many of the impulsive and risky behaviours displayed by individuals with FASD may be due to executive function deficits. For example, a lack of inhibition skills is associated with higher rates of delinquency and high-risk behaviours. Inhibition acts as the brains "break pedal" allowing time for a familiar response to be replaced with a potentially healthier response. Difficulty planning ahead or anticipating later consequences for their immediate action is another area of EF that may be impacted in individuals with FASD, and could present as impulsive behaviour. These behaviours may be interpreted as willful ignorance or disobedience but actually reflect differences in their cognitive skills sets. For example, someone with FASD might lie because of memory or recall difficulties or trying to please another person with what they think they would want to hear. 

Risky behaviours are seen to increase in adolescence. During adolescence, the areas of the brain that deal with risk taking and emotion control are developing. In FASD, this development is hindered. The increased exposure to possibly risky situations in adolescence and adulthood, paired with an inability to properly process risks and potential outcomes, can lead to poor outcomes for those with FASD. A desire for social acceptability, typical in this age, combined with cognitive challenges may also render the individual with FASD more vulnerable to peer influence which can lead to increased engagement in risky behaviours.


Why Kids Steal
Video presentation by Nathan Ory on reasons why kids steal (from POPFASD)

Dealing With Stealing
Video presentation by Nathan Ory: Strategies and approaches to use when kids steal (from POPFASD)

Cause and Effect/ Impulsivity
Classroom strategies to help students with their unique needs regarding cause and effect and impulsivity (from POPFASD)

Internet Safety: Predicting the Youth
Video Webinar with handouts presented by Constable Michael Richards: Understanding different social sites and modes of communication youth are using and how to minimize victimization and cyber crime (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A Comprehensive Guide For Pre-K -8 Educators
FASD overview, teaching and learning strategies for the classroom (Written by Chandra D. Zieff, M.Ed. and Rochelle D. Schwartz-Bloom, Ph.D.)
Lack of judgement and impulsivity: pp. 87-92

Case study: Stealing- A Counterfeit Conduct Disorder
Written by Nathan E. Ory, M.A. Offers information on why individuals steal and strategies for change (from POPFASD)


Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects: A Resource Guide for Teachers
Website containing information for teachers (along with strategies) about students with FASD, attention problems, cause and effect thinking, social skills, personal skills, memory, language, motor skills, and specific academic subjects (from BC Ministry of Education)