Social problems in children with FAS and other FASD diagnosis are almost always caused by their learning disabilities, usually those that begin with executive functioning problems. It’s not that you child is purposely misbehaving. They just are not capable of carrying out the correct behavior or reaction consistently. This is often because their maturity level is far below their age level.
Social development is how we describe the ability of a child to regulate their emotions, and the development of conscience. In children with fetal alcohol exposure social development lags many years behind their physical and intellectual development. Your teenager could possibly have only reached the emotional and social developmental level of a 4 – 6 year old although she is intellectually keeping up with her peers.
It’s not uncommon for children with disabilities and delays caused by issues other than drinking during pregnancy to suffer from social skills as well, but they do seem to catch up more quickly than children with FAS/FASD. In a paper by Dr. Ed Riley he noted that many children with FAS are not simply delayed in their social development, but the growth of social skills can become completely arrested at the 4 – 6 year old level.
“Adaptive and Social Skills. Studies have suggested that alcohol-exposed children are at high risk for problem behaviors that can interfere with their participation in home, school, and social environments. For example, these children are more likely than non-exposed children to be rated as hyperactive, disruptive, impulsive, or delinquent . Furthermore, based on parent ratings of their child’s behavior, children with histories of prenatal alcohol exposure had significant and profound impairment, with particular difficulties in social, attention, and aggressive domains. Results from a recent study suggest that social deficits in children with FAS are beyond what can be explained by low IQ scores and indicate that they may be arrested, and not simply delayed.”- Dr. Ed Riley
Teens with FASD may especially have problems with social and behavioral skills as they react at a much younger developmental level. Socially and emotionally, they still think at the level of 5 and 6 years. When faced with stress or pressure they tend to act out in the same way as a small child, but in a much physically larger and stronger body. They are unable to control this behavior they way children of the same age can as the part of their brain where that control is developed has been severely damaged.
These social delays suffered by our children can also cause problems in their ability to maintain friendships as they still think and behave at a level so much younger. My 6 year old daughter sometimes has a hard time playing with friends for any sustained length of times because of her frequent outbursts of anger and crying when she does not get her own way. Emotionally she still reacts to frustration at around the 2-3 year old level. This sometimes leads to isolation from other children in the neighborhood as they cannot handle her bossiness, or her inability to remain calm.
In older FASD children the social isolation can become even more of a problem as their interests and emotional levels are so far behind other children their age. They will often choose to spend their time with younger children whom they find more easy to understand on a social level.