FASD individuals need mentors or “external brains” to help them navigate the world.
Executive functioning — such as planning, anticipating, reasoning and making informed decisions — are essential for any independent living situation. For most people, these cognitive tasks are automatic. But what if a person is physically unable to perform these cognitive tasks? Add the fact that most people have no physical features indicating teir disability and is it any wonder why so many end up failing as they transition to adulthood.
So, to compensate for their brain trauma and lack of maturity, young adults rely on relationships — patient, trusted mentors who help teach the life skills that come so effortlessly to others. It can be as simple as organizing a local outing (Do we have directions? Money? Enough gas to get there and back?) or a new leisure pursuit, from cooking to carpentry.
Mentors don’t need special degrees or credentials. But they do need to enjoy being around young people and understand:
- Through modeling behavior and repetition, thse “external brains” play a key role in guiding our residents in the right direction, helping them develop alternative strategies and coping with emotions.
- They recognize that individuals struggle with judgment, memory storage and retrieval, abstract concepts (such as time and money), anticipating and predicting consquences. They shift the focus from punishment to prevention.
- They form connections based on mutual trust, helping young adults unleash their potential and laying the foundation for a productive, fulfilling life.
A mentor should help the individual gain confidence and insights into making positive choices. They provide a key role for those young adults coping with this disorder to unleash their potential and become productive citizens. (More about FASD.)