Archive for the ‘Why young adults with FASD struggle on jobs’ Category


Reasons why young adults with FASD struggle to hold onto a job:

  • Processing:  Most bosses expect our kids to “hear” at the rate that they themselves are able to hear. Often that is not the case. You cannot tell my daughter three things in a row and expect her to remember them all. or hear all that was told to her.

The brain of a child exposed to alcohol in the womb has blockades in it. Random cells have been killed while alcohol bathed the poor baby’s brain far longer than the mom who drank it. due to immature kidneys that cannot process it out. Alcohol kills cells.

Pour alcohol on an ant and you will kill it Imagine what it is doing in that baby’s brain that is supposed to be developing?  Soon you have dead areas all over that are like holes. They call it “Swiss Cheese Brain”. Then it collapse on itself and is smaller. Children with FAS often have smaller heads due to smaller brains.

The synapse that is naturally set to go from A to Z in the brain has to make new roads to make it. So when this child processes, it goes from A through b, c, d and E, before it can reach Z.

You have told her a group of things to do for the day and she heard the first one and is processing it when you stopped at the third. That third one hasn’t hit Z and you have walked away assuming your employee knows the plan and when she doesn’t do all that is asked, you think she doesn’t do a job well. That is not the case. She didn’t process. or remember all that you told her to do. These kids often need prompts and prompts to do the prompts. all day from an external brain. Most employers are not there to hold the hand of their employees.

Feeling overwhelmed trying to remember and process creates Anxiety. The more you pile on them, the more the anxiety mounts and the more the meltdown risks ensue. This also affects processing and memory further. Can you think straight when you are anxious?

Pace. They may keep up for a while but it stresses their brain to keep up a pace and soon they are in a melt down and one wonders why.

  • Memory. Again, even if you write it down, she will forget the list. The cortex section of the brain houses memory. It is frequently injured in the brain, through alcohol exposure. Often these young people are like old people with Alzheimer’s. It is sad but their working memory is hit hard sometimes.  You have to tell and retell or they often forget. Imagine an employer being patient enough to do that with their employee?

Forgetting medications or inconsistency with taking meds. This leads to mood swings and break downs on days when little things will get to them because their bodies are often in withdrawal. I found pills in kid’s rooms frequently. They were tossed in drawers instead of down their throat. At almost 21, I have to give my daughter a text reminder to take her meds and sometimes still a repeat one to see if she did it when reminded. This can wreak havoc with a day at work if they are emotionally off kilter due to not taking their meds because they forgot.

  • Motivation. There is actually a center in the brain of the frontal lobe that is called the motivation segment of the brain. Our kids are often considered lazy, but it has to be damage in that part of the brain. Too many of them have this in common. They are the ones who simply cannot occupy themselves. They often don’t know where to start on things so they just don’t.
  • Thinking: Concrete, inability to think abstract, or solve problems, often very bad at math. My daughter cannot add two simple numbers in her head or subtract. Yes there are calculators but it is proof of her concrete thinking and inability to solve a problem.
    This causes them to freeze. They see a problem and can’t see their way around it. Their brains cannot sort out, solve OR sequence which is another one.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  They don’t know where to start often. Sequencing requires abstract thinking. You start somewhere and you plan in your mind how you are going to get to the finish. These young adults can’t think that through. It requires too much processing and they get stuck. So they don’t start a project. Often things have to be prompted a step at a time for them to clearly reach the end.

  • Time: Inability to manage time well. Always late. Don’t realize how fast a clock runs. Can’t manage how much time it takes to get ready for work. My son would get out of bed 15 minutes before he was due at work and then couldn’t find anything he needed for work. He could not foresee the issues that it would take for him to get ready and he had no clue how long it took for him to drive to work. Constant lateness gets people fired.

Living in the moment. Inability to see the future. They don’t remember the past often either. Every day is ground hogs day. Brain trauma causes this through memory, processing and inability to plan. .
This causes them to lose their train of thought about where they are supposed to be, talk too much with someone on the job. They often lose track of TIME. How fast does a clock go? Can you and I sometimes figure out if we have only a minute to spare?  They cannot. They are in that minute and they stay in that minute.

I am an artist. I can sit down and work on a project and hours can go by and it will seem like minutes. That is how their whole day can be. They are not tracking time. They are just here now and doing what has to be done here and now and not thinking ahead or keeping time on the clock.  This is in the frontal lobe where planning is supposed to take place. But they have road blocks in the planning section. So their plans are scattered and not organized.  They are here and now and that is about all they know often.

An employer might find his employee with FASD chatting with another employee and forgetting that they are supposed to be working. Or there is a certain amount of work that needs to be done in a day and that employee just can’t get it done. He or she can’t plan how to get it done. They may need prompts on the steps to the end and/or they may forget all the jobs handed to them that day, so they start on one job and take their time and oops, where did the time go? Time?  It takes planning to manage time and planning has been injured.

  • Organization: Losing things. Yes. All the time. They can’t find their name pin, their hat, their shirt, their shoe, all required for work. Again due to lack of organization. This creates chaos in their rooms, apartments etc. They often look like the hoarders that we wonder how they can live in all that trash. They don’t know how to clean out the trash as that takes planning, processing, sequencing and memory.
  • Hygiene: This has improved with my kids, however it is often common with kids in their teens and lower functioning children. Not brushing their teeth enough, showers or hair care. Hygiene also takes planning, motivation, memory and processing. They forget.
  • Lack of impulse control:. Easy peasy. They do things without thinking it through because they don’t process well. They don’t remember. They don’t plan.
  • Complete self-centeredness, they are often unable to see others have problems too therefore they don’t show compassion on their coworkers or their attitude may make others upset easily.

Sometimes they don’t get along well with others.  Many have attachment issues and PTSD and all sorts of mental diagnoses like Bipolar, depression and anxiety.

They are sensitive often about everything people say. Again this is concrete thinking, not able to process where others are really coming from and no impulse control and they jump to conclusions and once they have their mind made up that things are a certain way, it is hard to help them change it because anger takes out all processing. Then they can lose focus on work and start fights/arguments or possibly tell lies about someone to get them in trouble, as to get even. They cause triangulation on purpose due to their emotional instability.
They are often Insecure about themselves and a desire to make themselves look better than their coworkers and have jealousy etc. Emotions are often right on the surface of a person with a traumatic brain injury which is what FASD is.

  • Lying:  Not admitting to making a mistake on the job, when probably the boss can see who is at fault. But our young adults lie for many reasons. Impulse control, protection, not processing through to the truth, etc.
  • Stealing: OOPS, taking things from their place of business that don’t belong to them. Often this is rooted in the center of the brain that doesn’t recognize sense of ownership. Also they see it, want it, and take it. No impulse control. Not processing through to the why they are doing what they are doing.
    It can give them a high to get something new. A drug so to speak. AWE see it, want it, Oh that feels good, but not processing through that there is a consequence for doing it.

Not always learning from consequences. Yes they can learn but their brains take much longer than a normal brain does to “Get” things and for them to stick in their memory banks. Some kids are worse at this than others.

Inability to realize that they will have consequences  for their actions therefore losing jobs and not meaning to lose the job, just living in the moment, not remembering the danger of their crime, lying about having done it etc.

  • Sensory issues. Last but not least I want to touch on the fact that many of our kids have sensory overload every day. Light and sound is louder and brighter to them and this overshadows their ability to function well, think clearly, stay focused and often triggers meltdowns.

Recap:  A traumatic brain injury is scattered and unpredictable where it lands. Often much is in the Frontal lobe.  It causes our young adults with FASD to struggle in many areas and some days can be worse than others.  Some days it seems that the brain is clicking along and others they are not remembering, processing, sequencing, planning, controlling impulses, and they are on over load from too much sensory and people.

It is a far more complex life for them and it takes most of their energy just to keep up with their brain. So adding in a job with lots of parts and pieces and expectations can be hard for some of them. Not impossible. My son is working part time as a cook and he has kept his job for two years.  I think there has to be a few pieces in place that can help. Doing the same things daily is a big one. Working with people who treat you with kindness and understand you and what you are dealing with helps.

An employer who doesn’t mind repeating himself throughout the day in a patient fashion.

An employer who “gets” being an external brain to the young adult with FASD will go a long ways toward success of that young adult’s ability to hold onto their job and become successful in life.