Cultivating a Learning Mindset

Fostering an attitude for learning is so important.

Kids with FASD face additional challenges and are often at risk of falling behind in school.

This year, Grade 2, has been challenging. We’ve had numerous calls with his teacher who is struggling to manage T in the classroom.

There are many factors we attribute it to, including a constant rotating door of classroom supports and unexpected disruptions in our home.

It’s hard for me to think about his recent comments about despite how hard he tries, he says he never has a good day at school.

The hubby and I believe T is bright and capable. It’s his hyperactivity, focus, impulsivity, self regulation, executive functioning that hinder him.

And they are no small challenges.

This is why the hubby and I continue to provide him with supplementary learning outside of school, to help bridge potential gaps.

The mind, regardless of impairments, is capable of growing and learning something new each day.

And here are some ways we’re approaching learning at home this school year.


Reading is something we keep up with every day, because it forms the building blocks for all other learning at school and in life.

We’re so proud of how far T has come and his teacher says he’s reading at grade level.

His teacher sends a book home every day, so it makes our jobs easy.

I borrow books at the library that T would enjoy – which currently are the Little Critter books.

We ended off the book by asking him quick questions to confirm his comprehension.


Recent modules T completed on Khan Academy

I often read that math – and time and abstract concepts – is challenging for individuals with FASD.

Fingers crossed, T is good at math so far and he feels good when he gets the work done.

We set him up with Khan Academy, an amazing open source learning resource that covers a range of subjects up to the high school level, to practice with their math modules and he loves it.

It’s a great way to reinforce what he’s learning in the classroom and to catch up on things he may be missing due to environmental challenges.


Looking up the school board curriculum is a helpful guide to figuring out what areas to focus on.

We focus on reading and math and try not to overdo it as weekends are for rest and fun.

But I do sneak in some science by watching short educational videos on YouTube that align with our province’s school curriculum.

I try to find videos no longer than 5 minutes, so they are digestible bites of information.

We sneak these videos in during drives to and from swim lessons.

The last few weeks, T learned about animals, including the mammal classification. I had a laugh when T was appalled that he and dogs were part of the same classification.

It’s also heartening to hear when he says stuff like, “I learned this already at school.”

I may rotate science videos with other subjects such as social studies as the school year goes on.

Outdoor and Physical Activity

I miss these summer hikes and can’t wait for next summer to arrive.

Kids with FASD, like T, are in constant motion and need lots of physical activity and outdoor time to burn off energy and regulate.

We go outside 1-2 times a day and during these cold winter days, I long for our long summer hikes.

We also started T with swim lessons this fall and he’s doing amazing. It’s so important for him to have opportunities to succeed and feel good about himself.

He’s interested in martial arts and we’re considering lessons, making sure we don’t overload our weekends, because self care is important too.

Focus on the Big Picture

T completed Level 1 of swim lessons today and will be moving onto Level 2 in January. 🙂

It’s important to remind ourselves of T’s strengths.

When we work with him one on one, we can see he gets the work. The trick is to work on his focus and to help him develop skills to minimize his frustrations – which is a challenge.

We remind ourselves that in T’s case, it’s a learning disability rather than an intellectual disability – an important distinction we’ve learned through this FASD parenting journey.

We remind ourselves to keep it relaxed – as hard as some moments can be – and that weekends and evenings should be prioritized for wellbeing, rest, fun and family time.

We remind ourselves to move at T’s pace and to adjust our expectations to minimize frustrations. This one is a hard one but on the days the stars align, it helps us keep our eyes on the prize.

And for those that are wondering, we haven’t shared T’s diagnosis with him yet. Life got unexpectedly hard and busy this fall.

The hubby and I plan to do so this holiday break. This will be an important milestone for our family – and one we are hopeful will help T make sense of his challenging moments at school.

17 thoughts on “Cultivating a Learning Mindset

  1. It’s heartbreaking to hear that T says he never has a good day at school. I love that you and the hubby stay positive and try to incorporate creative ways to learn at home. While it’s good to work on problem areas, it’s also important to play to your strengths as well to build confidence. It sounds like you have a good balance. P.S. I grew up reading those Little Critter books too!

    1. Thanks Linda. It has been a very challenging school year so far and part of it is that despite the teacher’s best intentions, I don’t think she’s had a kid like T in her class before. But all we can do is keep trying to not give up. 🙂 Yes, those Critter books are the best.

  2. I read that our brains actually like to be challenged in order for it to keep growing (in children) or to remain healthy in the long run (for adults). I don’t know what kind of effects your brain exercises do to T, but I like to think they’re good for his brain development. Have a great holiday, Ab! And I hope everything goes well when you share T’s diagnosis with him.

    1. Thank you Bama. Yes, a little challenge is good for our brain growth. It’s kinda like weight training. We always just do a little bit more to challenge our muscle for it to grow and the brain itself is a muscle.

      Wishing you a wonderful holidays as well Bama! 😊 I’m now off and trying to just relax and not stress about anything. 😆

  3. All of this hard work will pay off for you. You are doing a great job by giving him such a solid foundation and tools that will be effective for him in the future. Even if it doesn’t seem that way now…I hope this year will be easier for you!

    1. Thank you! When you’re in the daily trenches, it really does feel hard but taking the time to reflect does put it into perspective. I’m thankful for this blog and the community such as yourselves. The best form of therapy. 😆 Happy holidays to you and your family.

  4. So I saw some cool things on Facebook for under a desk for fidgety kiddos! And those fidget chairs! May work! Not sure how your school works. I am so proud of how good T is doing. I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Thank you! His teacher and the OT have implemented things like fidgets, some have worked, some have not. But it’s always worth trying. Happy holidays to you as well!

  5. I love how you focus on the big picture. And the work you all are doing to support T is just amazing. It’s heart breaking to hear that he doesn’t have good days at school recently but I hope that changes. I’m sending you all great wishes that sharing the diagnosis brings goodness and insight.

    One question that I started asking Miss O at the end of the day is “How did you help today?” I found it to be a great balancer for not matter what kind of day we’ve had.

    Hope you have a fun, relaxing and good family time weekend!

    1. Thank you, Wynne. It is very heartbreaking for sure. To be very frank, although the school will never say it, he unfortunately has a reputation now as the challenging student. And it all just feeds into a cycle of how T sees himself and his experience. But I do also believe the school and teacher are genuinely trying to help and we will just need to work together to help him.

      I love the “How Did you Help?” Question. I will try that this coming week.

      Have a wonderful weekend with your kids too!

      1. Yes, Ab, I agree with the cycle because we filter what we see and say through a story. I applaud you for changing that story. T is a very lucky boy to have you as his childhood narrator!

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