SAMHSA Resources for Parents + Children: Understanding FASD


What Do I Do? Helping Your Kids Understand Their Sibling’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder  and My Sibling has FASD: Can I Catch It? are two of a number of free downloadable resources published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). fasd3fasd-2

[divider] What Do I Do? Helping Your Kids Understand Their Sibling’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder provides guidance on understanding sibling relationships when FASD is involved.  It addresses questions parents may have and suggests ways for parents to help their children cope with their sibling’s disorder.  It identifies the challenges faced by children with an FASD, and the fears, pressures, and confusion often felt by siblings.

The resource stresses that, “every child is unique, but FASD presents some challenges that many siblings don’t face.  People with an FASD can have qualities that make them different, such as:

  • Being very unpredictable.
  • Being moody, making forming a close relationship hard.
  • Having trouble functioning in a typical environment.
  • Having memory lapses.
  • Showing behaviour problems.
  • Not understanding ownership…..

Despite these challenges, the relationship between siblings can be a very important part of anyone’s life.”

It quantifies that, “Many things will affect your children’s relationship with each other.  FASD is not the only factor.  Your kids might have personality differences or nothing in common.  That can make a relationship difficult.  Family situations, such as divorce, can also affect the way a sibling relationship develops.  Some siblings become close and remain so into adulthood, while others never get close or grow apart as they get older….You can teach your kids not to snub their siblings because they have an FASD.  You can guide your children, but don’t force them to be friends.  Children shouldn’t be expected to stifle their feelings or to cut their sibling some slack. FASD does not excuse bad behaviour.”

Feelings siblings may experience might include:

  • Jealousy or anger about all the attention the child with an FASD gets.
  • Anger about being different from other families.
  • Isolation and loneliness.
  • Guilt for feeling angry or resentful or for not having a disability.
  • Embarrassment about the sibling’s behaviour or appearance.
  • Fear that they might develop an FASD.
  • Pressure to achieve in order to make up for a brother or sister’s inabilities
  • Pressure to help take care of the sibling and resulting anger.
  • Confusion about the disability.


Suggestions for helping children cope with their sibling’s FASD include:

  • Give each of your children individual time without interruption.
  • Assure your children who don’t have an FASD that their feelings are okay.
  • Help your children accept their sibling’s FASD.
  • Remind your child that differences make the world more interesting.
  • Look for ways to play up the strengths of your child with an FASD.
  • If your children want to help their sibling, encourage them.
  • Help your children learn to communicate with their sibling with an FASD (e.g. using short words and breaking directions down into simple steps).
  • Suggest positive reinforcement, such as praising their sibling if he or she gets something right or does something well.
  • Provide siblings with choices and include them in decision-making.  Don’t make assumptions that you know how your children feel.
  • Provide your children with information about FASD.

The booklet also lists a number of Additional Resources on FASD.

My Sibling has FASD: Can I Catch It?  is written for children who have a sibling with an FASD.  This booklet provides a definition of FASD and answers questions a child might have, focusing on the feelings of the sibling.  It contains a resource guide, games and activities.

The brochure gives straightforward, plain language answers to questions children may have about their sibling with an FASD and about their own feelings and experience, such as:

  • What are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders?
  • Is there anything good about FASD?
  • Sometimes my sibling is a pain.  Is it OK to be mad or do I have to be extra nice because my sibling has an FASD?
  • Can I catch an FASD?
  • Mom and Dad are so busy taking care of my sibling I feel like I don’t exist.  How can I get their attention?
  • I feel like the only kid whose sibling has an FASD.  Where can I find others?
  • Why do we have to go to all these therapy sessions?  It’s boring.
  • My parents ask me to help take care of my sibling.  Am I stuck doing that because of his or her FASD?
  • I want to help my sibling but I don’t know what to do.  How can I help?
  • Do I have to be a “Super Kid” to make up for my sibling’s FASD?
  • Why do mothers drink when they are pregnant?  Don’t they know it can hurt their baby?
  • I don’t know much about FASD.  Where can I learn more?

It also includes The Seven Cs:

  • I didn’t Cause it.
  • I can’t Cure it.
  • I can’t Control it.
  • I can take better Care of myself by Communicating my feelings, making healthy Choices, and Celebrating myself.

Games include a word search, double puzzle, and maze game (with answer keys).  There is also a sheet of discussion starter questions included.


Access these resources here:

Helping Your Kids Understand Their Sibling’s FASD

My Sibling has FASD: Can I Catch It?