Adults with FASD may struggle to socialize with others their own age. It may be difficult for them to realize that a person might pretend to be a friend in order to take advantage of the individual with FASD. This can have serious psychological, criminal, and financial consequences. It is important that people with FASD understand what is a healthy relationship.
To promote healthy relationships, a caregiver should:
- Promote good role models
- Explain how to use a phone, how to get someone’s attention, etc.
- Assist in establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships
- Assist in day-to-day and community activities
- Avoid “down time”
- Teach the basics of socializing, such as how to deal with anger or other emotions
- Set expectations for drug and alcohol use
- Teach the individual how to avoid peer pressure and determine who is a real friend
More tips can be found at Supporting Success for Adults
It is important for the child to be able to distinguish between true friends and people who are being exploitative. Friends who are bad role models may be able to coerce the individual with FASD in to committing crimes. Conversely, the child must learn about personal space and unwanted touching. People with FASD may not realize that hugging or touching may make a stranger feel uncomfortable. They often benefit from friendships with people of a younger chronological age. Developmental age rather than chronological age is often more indicative of appropriate friendships. People with FASD could also benefit from having an older friend who is responsible and mature. This older, “cooler” friend can help encourage responsible behavior such as abstaining from alcohol and drugs. This friend can be a family friend, someone from church, a tutor, or anyone else who can be trusted to not take advantage of the person with FASD.
Individuals may also benefit from interacting with others with FASD. FASD Communities provides living centers solely for those with FASD. There are also online groups such as FASD Line where adults with FASD can communicate with one another. Groups such as Better Endings New Beginnings aim to improve the lives of those with FASD through programs such as providing service dogs. Blogs from people with FASD are available across the internet and may be used to make a person with FASD feel less alone in his or her struggles. There are also online support groups which can connect family members or people with FASD with others with similar struggles.
Self-Advocates with FASD in Action (SAFA) is a national self-advocacy group for FASD. The group aims to improve quality of life, connect people, and advocate for the needs of those with FASD. To join, send an email to Leigh Ann Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Club COSTA is another support group devoted to improving the lives of adults and teens with FASD.
In a time when a lot of social interaction takes place online, it may also be useful for a caregiver to instruct the child on appropriate online behavior. Websites such as I Can Be Safe Online can be used for a more exciting and interactive way to go over safety. Caregivers may also choose to limit certain websites or put a limit on the amount of time spent online.