Is it Time for the Creation of a #FASD – Based Legal Training Certification Program?

64274-thewhitestwall1Individuals with suspected or confirmed FASD commonly experience a wide-range of impairments that can significantly impair their ability to competently proceed through the complex criminal trial process.

To illustrate this point further, some individuals with FASD may be more inclined to confabulate, be suggestible under interrogative pressures and questioning, and provide inaccurate information sometimes leading to the possibility of wrongful conviction. As such, it is strongly suggested that all legal professionals receive continuing education on topics related to FASD.

To go a step further, the creation of a specialized FASD-based legal training certification program may be warranted. As part of a proposed FASD-based legal training certification program, the following subtopics should be considered:

FASD: An Introduction
FASD and Competency to Stand Trial
FASD and Confabulation
FASD and Executive Functioning Impairments
FASD and Sexually Inappropriate Behaviors
FASD and Social Skill Deficits
FASD and Suggestibility
FASD and the Juvenile Justice System
FASD in Correctional Settings
FASD: Case Law
FASD: Communication and Intervention Approaches
FASD: Ethical and Legal Dilemmas
FASD: Forensic Screening Practices
FASD: Offender Reentry and Community Supervision
FASD: Sentencing Considerations
FASD: Vulnerability and Victimization

-Jerrod Brown

The Whitest Wall by Jodee Kulp takes readers into the world of three individuals living in a regular community and demonstrates how this disability affects day to day functioning most people tilt their heads at but don’t understand. Winner of Best Young Adult USA Fiction (2012) Winner Mom’s Choice Gold Adult Fiction and Young Adult Fiction.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder ( #FASD ): 10 Reminders for Helping Professionals

By: Jerrod Brown

64274-thewhitestwall11. The effects of FASD are irreversible. They can, however, be minimized and managed through appropriate therapy and supports.

2. Some individuals with FASD may struggle with fine motor skills and, as a result, become frustrated/easily angered due to difficulties in coordination.

3. School settings can be a problem for some students with FASD.

4. As adults, symptoms may become more obvious since the ability to plan and anticipate consequences continue to be impaired and the responsibilities of daily living are increased (e.g. this may negatively impact finances, housing, and other areas of life).

5. Some individuals with FASD live with the challenges of numerous secondary conditions (e.g. ADHD, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Sleep Disorders, etc.).

6. Some individuals with FASD likely have experienced previous trauma (e.g. emotional, physical or sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence, substance abuse and extreme neglect).

7. Some individuals with FASD may present as hyperactive, impulsive, and tend to have poor social skills.

8. Misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis of FASD is common.

9. Social and emotional development deficits are common for some individuals with FASD (e.g. a child with FASD who is 18 years old chronologically, may be functioning developmentally at a much younger age).

10. Deficits in executive function are common (e.g. difficulties in problem solving, impaired judgment, poor decision making skills, diminished ability to comprehend the cause and effect of their actions and behaviors).

Confabulation (verb: confabulate) is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.

The Whitest Wall by Jodee Kulp takes readers into the world of five individuals living in a regular community and demonstrates how this disability affects day to day functioning most people tilt their heads at but don’t understand. Winner of Best Young Adult USA Fiction (2012) Winner Mom’s Choice Gold Adult Fiction and Young Adult Fiction.

Difficulties with Screening for #FASD in Adult Forensic Populations

Guest Blogger / Author:  Jerrod Brown

511ec-thewhitestwall1Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a group of disorders that does not lend itself well to screening, assessment, and diagnosis without proper awareness, education, and training related to the complexities of the disorder. The varied neuropsychological and dysmorphology symptomatology of FASD contribute to screening and diagnostic issues. Specifically, individuals with FASD typically have neuropsychological deficits (e.g., executive control, impulsivity, and decision-making) that require high levels of support and services, but can present relatively independently of intelligence. Complicating these already challenging neuropsychological symptoms, only around 10 % of individuals with FASD have visible signs of facial dysmorphia, which become less apparent as individuals physically mature into adulthood. This combination of symptomatology limits the ability of unprepared clinicians to render differential diagnoses and increases the likelihood of under-identification and misdiagnosis of FASD.

The identification of FASD is further muddled by a lack of reliable screening instruments in forensic settings, sometimes limited access to medical and historical records, and memory-related issues. First, the relative dearth of FASD screening instruments developed and validated for use in forensic settings, especially in adult populations only contributes to the under-identification of FASD. Second, gaps in current and historical medical records also make it sometimes difficult to identify the presence of prenatal alcohol exposure with any degree of certainty for adults. The fact that some individuals with FASD were adopted or involved in multiple foster care placements only decreases the likelihood of such records or access to the birth mother. Third, adults with FASD often have memory issues. This includes impairments in short-and long-term memory and the potential for suggestibility (e.g., inclination to agree with statements and implications of others) and confabulation (e.g., the creation of new memories from real and fictional experiences). As such, a clinician should not solely rely on information reported by an adult who possibly has FASD without seeking out collateral sources of information. Working to resolve these screening and assessment issues and increasing the likelihood of early and accurate identification and implementation of appropriate services and supports offers the most promise in rendering desistance from involvement in the criminal justice system.

The varied symptomatology and screening and assessment issues of FASD emphasize the importance of awareness amongst forensic professionals. Unfortunately, there is a lack of general awareness of FASD among forensic professionals, which is contributed to by limited coverage of the disorder during education and advanced trainings. Further, there are few forensic experts in the area of FASD. Not only does this often leave many questions of how to deal with adults with FASD who are involved in the criminal justice system unanswered, but this lack of expertise also limits the potential of referral for specialized FASD assessments involving individuals in adult forensic populations. Complimenting this lack of knowledge in the field is a lack of adult specialized FASD-based treatment and intervention options in both community and confined settings. These shortcomings highlight the importance of implementing FASD awareness campaigns in adult forensic settings and expanded forensic-specific coverage of FASD in educational and continuing education settings.

Author Biography: Jerrod Brown, MA, MS, MS, MS, is the Treatment Director for Pathways Counseling Center, Inc. Pathways provides programs and services benefiting individuals impacted by mental illness and addictions. Jerrod is also the founder and CEO of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS), lead developer and program director of an online graduate degree program in Forensic Mental Health from Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Editor-in-Chief of Forensic Scholars Today. Jerrod is currently in the dissertation phase of his doctorate degree program in psychology. Please contact Jerrod at Jerrod01234Brown@Live if you have questions about this article or would like a full list of references used for this article.

Confabulation (verb: confabulate) is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.

The Whitest Wall by Jodee Kulp takes readers into the world of three individuals living in a regular community and demonstrates how this disability affects day-to-day functioning most people tilt their heads at but don’t understand. Winner of Best Young Adult USA Fiction (2012) Winner Mom’s Choice Gold Adult Fiction and Young Adult Fiction.