Strategies for Students with Fragile X Syndrome


Because students with fragile X syndrome often have other exceptionalities, including those along the autistic spectrum, many of these strategies are useful for a variety of learning and behavioral disabilities. They may also benefit students without a diagnosed exceptionality.

Strategy 1: Create a calm, non threatening classroom environment (physical/behavioral)
First and foremost, a classroom community must be developed to ensure that every child feels safe and comfortable in the classroom. Teachers should take time at the beginning of the school year to teach students about fragile X syndrome (FXS). If the students are aware of the exceptionality and what it entails (hand flapping, outbursts, chewing on clothes), they will be more understanding and respectful of that student and the syndrome (About Kids Health, 2004). There are a number of accommodations that teachers can make in their classroom to reduce anxiety, limit behavioral problems and help students with this syndrome stay on task. First, a student with FXS should be seated in the front of the class and off to the side (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Students with this syndrome are often hypersensitive to sound and movements so a thoughtful seating plan can help to reduce the number of distractions (About Kids Health, 2004). The teacher should also offer a “safe zone”, in or out of the classroom, where the students knows they can retreat (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). It may also be helpful to teach students with this syndrome, calming activities and exercises that they can refer to when they begin to feel stressed (About Kids Health, 2004).

Students with FXS should not be rushed to produce work or answer questions. It is important that they receive ample time to make decisions and tests should be given free from time constraints (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). It is also important for students with Fragile X to be able to predict what will come next in the classroom. A posted schedule is important to reduce anxiety. It is helpful for the student to have a visual or picture schedule (MedicineNet, 1996). Timers are also useful tools for students with fragile X. Having a timer, one at their work space or one at the front of the class, will help these students stay on task. They will then have an easier time transitioning from subject to subject, as they know exactly when it will happen (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).

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Strategy 2: Provide alternate means of communication (instructional/physical)
Most students with fragile X syndrome have delayed speech and problems with verbal communication (About Kids Health, 2004). Teacduo5049580.jpghers should make every effort to assist these students by providing an alternate form of communication wherever possible. Pictures are essential for students who have fragile X (MedicineNet, 1996). Teachers could create a book that contains pictures for the common words, activities and feelings that the student may encounter throughout the school day. Pictures cards could also be posted around the room which would allow the student to communicate with the rest of the class. Color coding may also be useful in some cases. It could be used to identify areas of the classroom (work space, quiet space, supply cupboard, place to hand in work etc). Color coding could also be used to identify subjects; teachers could have a colored duotang for each subject (math-blue, language arts-yellow etc). Hand signals, including sign language, are one more way for teachers and other students, to communicate with a person who has fragile X (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).



Links to videos that furter illustate the importance picture exchange communication:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7RbbRyN58c http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U72Wtyy-kNc

This following site provides resources for teachers including, picture software for children with autsim and fragile X syndrome: http://helpingtogrow.istores.com/home

When communicating with students who have FXS, teachers must ensure to use concrete and not abstract examples (MedicineNet, 1996). If examples are not provided in a concrete manner, the student may become frustrated, withdrawn or stressed because they do not understand what the teacher is trying to portray (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Whenever possible, teachers should give instruction one to one, and use the help of visual organizers, models or other manipulatives that are meaningful to that student. Indirect questioning is suggested when communicating with students who have fragile X. It is less threatening and less stressful for the student (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Fill in the blank style questioning is one form that may help put the student at ease. It is important that the student be given time to observe and process before being asked to attempt a task or activity (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).

Technology is an important tool for students with fragile X. A computer can allow the student to communicate and have access to pictures and models that may not otherwise be available (MedicineNet, 1996). Watching videos and listening to tapes are other ways in which technology can benefit those with FXS (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).

Closure activities are also crucial for students with fragile X. Taking time at the end of each period to recap and ask and answer questions, will help to fill in information gaps that the student may have missed throughout the lesson (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).
Strategy 3: Understand learner’s needs (instructional)
As with all students, those with fragile X should be given work that is meaningful and appropriate for them. School assignments and projects should engage the student and be presented in a positive manner. It is important that teachers do not administer work as a punishment or negative consequence (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Students with FXS require more time to process than the rest of the students and also have trouble moving onto a new task before the previous one is finished (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). This is why additional work and homework may not be suitable for students with fragile X. Instead of assigning more work for practice, the assigned task should be meaningful to the student; quality not quantity. Teachers must be aware of the fact that students with FXS process information simultaneously and therefore do not learn in a step to step manner, but prefer to look at the whole picture (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Students with fragile X also learn in an associative way, so teachers can assist them by relating ideas with one another. For example they may relate a specific animal to a country in the world (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). It is ideal that students with fragile X receive individualized lessons and assignments that meet their needs (About Kids Health, 2004).
Like with communication, computer use can help students with fragile X focus on the task at hand. Students with this syndrome may have perfectionist tendencies. This can lead to assignments taking much longer than they have to when the student is doing it by hand. Using the computer helps to eliminate this issue because the student does not obsess over their writing imperfections (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).
primary_aldrich3.jpgThere is also crossover between communication and student work in the area of resources available to the student. With any assignment or task, the teacher should provide students with FXS appropriate resources to complete it. Models, diagrams, manipulatives and other visual representations should be available to the student (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).

It is also important for teachers to ensure that seated work is adequately balanced with physical activity. It is difficult for students with FXS to remain seated and focused for long periods of time (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).
If much of the day’s activities consist of seat work, the teacher should allow students with fragile X to have frequent breaks so that they do not become overwhelmed or frustrated (MedicineNet, 1996).

The teacher, in conjunction with parents, should seek outside help. In order to adequately meet the needs of a student with FXS, it is important to use all available resources including: tutors, psychologists, occupational and speech therapists. These resources can help the student with behavioral techniques and verbal communication and can also provide assistance and strategies for the teacher to utilize (About Kids Health, 2004).

Strategy 4: Teach to their strengths (instructional)
In order to ensure success for students with fragile X syndrome, teachers must be aware of their strengths and teach accordingly. Strengths differ for boys and girls with FXS. Areas of strength for boys include: single word vocabulary, processing multiple pieces of information at once, receptive listening vocabulary, especially when the topic is of interest to them (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Boys are also good at doing puzzles and communicating through pictures (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Teachers may consider giving short verbal instruction in conjunction with visual representations. Having instructions on tape, along with a book of relative pictures, may also be effective for boys with FXS. Strengths for girls with FXS include: strong short term visual memory, reading, writing and spelling (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). Girls with fragile X syndrome have the opportunity to do well at written work if it is presented in a concrete, not abstract, manner and is of interest to them. Repetitiveness, familiarity and imitation are also known areas of strength for students with FXS (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004 and About Kids Health, 2004). Students with FXS also have an excellent memory for people, events and directions (About Kids Health, 2004).


Strategy 5: Provide life skills (social skills) GroupWork-CMTF.jpg

Students with fragile X syndrome require education beyond the curriculum (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). It is important for them, throughout their school years and especially in high school, to be taught basic life skills that will carry them through their adult lives. Along with parents, teachers can assist students with FXS by incorporating these skills while they are at school. In elementary and middle school, teachers can help FXS students by encouraging them to develop peer relationships, perhaps by having them participate in small group activities (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). In high school, teachers can help students with fragile X by giving them tools to be successful in employment and other aspects of adult life (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). In addition to the curriculum, teachers could educate students with FXS on how to: be active in the community, manage money, create a resume and read labels, directions and time (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004). It may also be helpful to introduce the student with a mentor to assist them both in and outside of school (The National Fragile X Foundation Education Project, 2004).

For a more in depth look at teaching strategies and sample lessons vist http://www.fragilex.org/html/home.shtml