ERIC Identifier: ED340149
Publication Date: 1991-11-00
Author: Pinkerton, Dianna
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Substance Exposed Infants and Children. ERIC Digest #E505.
According to a study conducted by the National Association for Perinatal
Addiction Research and Education, an estimated 375,000 newborns per year face
serious health hazards due to their mother's prenatal drug use. It is estimated
that 11 to 15% of the babies born in the United States today were exposed in
utero to alcohol and/or other illicit drugs (Poulsen, 1991). The problems
associated with prenatal substance abuse are increasing and has serious
implications for the future educational needs of the children and families
affected. Services, programs, and strategies that have been developed in the
field of special education will have a role to play in meeting their needs.
WHAT TECHNIQUES CAN BE USED TO PROMOTE INTERACTION IN SUBSTANCE EXPOSED INFANTS?
Parent/caregiver education is essential for an
effective, comprehensive early intervention program. Specific techniques to
increase periods of alertness and promote infant-caregiver interaction include
positioning to improve posture and movement patterns, swaddling and rocking,
tactile stimulation of facial and oral areas, and slow gentle movements.
Sidelying, prone positioning, and carrying in a flexed position are preferred
for positioning and handling. Slow rhythmical input may be effective in calming
an infant. When infants are calm, they can be held in a face to face position to
encourage visual tracking, vocalization, and playful interaction with their
caregiver. Initially, this interaction may be brief because the infant may
become over-stimulated. Caregivers need to take cues from the infant during
interaction and respond appropriately by reducing stimuli or introducing calming
techniques. (Schneider et al., 1989).
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS FOR SUBSTANCE EXPOSED
In order to work effectively with young children prenatally
exposed to drugs and/or alcohol in the preschool setting, educators must
recognize the vulnerabilities arising from both biological and environmental
risk factors. They must also recognize the children's strengths and the ways in
which they are like typical children. Appropriate intervention strategies must
be selected based on the systematic application of what is known about
successful early intervention. The Los Angeles Unified School District has
developed a document that summarizes successful classroom strategies (Cole,
Ferrara et al., 1990). They divide the strategies into two areas: protective
classroom factors and facilitative classroom processes.
Protective factors to be built into a classroom.
Curricula should be developmentally appropriate and promote
experiential learning, interaction, exploration, and play in a context
that is interesting and relevant.
Play: Adults must actively facilitate children's play activities by
helping them extend the complexity and duration of such activities.
Rules: The setting should be one in which the number of rules
specifically told to the children is limited.
Observation and assessment: Assessment should be made during play, at
transition time, and while a child is engaged in self-help activities.
Flexible room environment: The setting should allow materials and
equipment to be removed to reduce stimuli or added to enrich the
Transition time plans: Transition should be seen as an activity in and
of itself with a beginning, middle, and end.
Adult/child ratio: There should be enough adults to promote
attachment, predictability, nurturing, and ongoing assistance in
learning appropriate coping styles.
These guidelines are appropriate for all preschool classrooms. Most young
children prenatally exposed to drugs and/or alcohol can be served in regular
Facilitative processes to be built into a classroom.
Attachment: A major goal for each child is to develop an attachment
to one of the adults in the classroom.
Respect: Adults must respect children's work and play space.
Feelings: Feelings are real and legitimate; children behave and
misbehave for a reason, even if adults cannot figure it out.
Mutual discussion: Talking about behavior and feelings, with empathy
not judgment, can validate the child's experiences and set up an
Role Model: Teachers need to model behavior that is appropriate for
children to imitate.
Peer sensitivity: Until children experience having their own needs met
repeatedly and consistently, they will not become aware of the needs
and feelings of others.
Decision making: Teachers need to recognize the importance of allowing
children to make decisions for themselves and provide many
opportunities for such decision making.
Home-school partnership: Establishing a close working relationship
with the home as an essential part of the curriculum, strengthens the
positive interaction between child and family and increases parental
confidence and competency.
Transdisciplinary model: The activities of all the professionals
concerned with the child and family should be coordinated.
The strategies identified as facilitative processes shape educational
personnel's interaction with children and families on a daily basis. They are
designed to counteract or help children cope with stressful life events they may
be experiencing. In addition, the strategies are designed to provide children
support in coping with any neurodevelopmental behaviors that impede their
learning and classroom performance. These strategies can be combined with
teaching techniques of using play as a learning activity and providing
individualized and small-group guidance to assist children in mastering new
skills (Vincent et al., 1991).
WHAT PLANNING IS REQUIRED FOR FUTURE NEEDS?
need to prepare for the arrival of drug-exposed children in the schools by
considering future funding needs, involving administrators and other school
personnel, and supporting appropriate classroom programs (Rist, 1990).
Transdisciplinary/transagency approaches to program development are necessary
to provide for the varied needs of children and families affected by substance
exposure. A variety of services may be needed by these families including
specialized medical care, family therapy, home health care, early intervention
services, mental health services, and vocational services.
Cole, C., Ferrara, V., Johnson, D., Jones, M.,
Schoenbaum, M., Tyler, R., Wallace, V., & Poulsen, M. (1991). Today's
challenge: Teaching Strategies for working with young children pre-natally
exposed to drugs/alcohol. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Unified School District.
Rist, M. C. (1990). The shadow children. American School Board Journal.
177(1), 18-24. (EJ402318)
Schneider, J., Griffith, D., & Chasnoff, I. (1989). Infants exposed to
cocaine in utero: Implications for developmental assessment and intervention.
Infants and Young Children. 2(1), 25-36. (EJ396632)
Poulsen, M. (1991). Schools meet the challenge: Educational needs of children
at risk due to substance exposure. Sacramento: Resources in Special Education.
Vincent, L., Poulsen, M., Cole, C., Woodruff, G., & Griffith, D. (1991).
Born substance exposed, educationally vulnerable. Reston, VA: The Council for