Trying Differently Instead of Harder: How early intervention of art therapy benefits children with FASD

Many Canadian children receive special education services for learning disabilities (Learning Disabilities Association of Canada [LDAOC], 2011). "It is probable that between 10-15% of students are receiving Special Education because of prenatal exposure to alcohol" (Richie, 2011, p.1). The literature on FASD suggests that healthy development is limited by "structual brain damage that lasts a lifetime" Streissguth, 1997, p. 96). The implications are that FASD impairs an individual's ability to form secure attachment relationships or experience adequate cognitive stimulation to promote brain growth (Barthel, 2008; Graefe, 2006; Hass-Cohen & Carr, 2008).

This thesis asks the question: how does early intervention of art therapy benefit children affected by FASD? The research methodology uses grounded theory and hermeneutic phenomenology to form a case series of four school-aged children with FASD, including an in-depth single case study.

Despite the notion that development is delayed through the entire lifespan for individuals with FASD (Graefe, 2006; Streissguth, 1997) these participants developed secure attachment relationships, demonstrated enhanced self-image, and experienced positive sensory and cognitive stimulation, which helps stimulate brain development (Hass-Cohen & Carr, 2008), within five months of participation in art therapy. Art therapy proved to be a useful approach for facilitating these benefits, serving as a deterrent to the development of the long-term secondary behaviors, such as depression, addictions, suicide, violence, and gang affiliation that are common risk factors for individuals with FASD.