FASD & the Justice System

People with FASD can have difficulty understanding the concept of time, which can interfere with their ability to describe past events, keep appointments, and plan effectively for the future. Most often the responsibility for ensuring that a person with FASD arrives at a destination on time will have to rest with an unaffected adult. “For older teens and adults, consider a colour coding system when using a calendar or day-timer to assist them in keeping track of things that occur over larger blocks of time such as paying the rent or seeing the dentist, doctor, probation officer or counselor, etc.”  (FASD Strategies not Solutions. 2004, p.16). People charged with the supervision of individuals have developed an array of customized strategies that teach time by association, make time blocks “visual”, and substitute face clocks with a digital alarm clock.  No one solution will work for everyone with FASD – the objective should be to find whatever works for the affected individual. (Kellerman, T. 2003).    

A lawyer who is representing an individual with FASD will want to find ways to remind the client about court dates (since reminder slips are likely to be lost), and judges may want to consider issuing discretionary bench warrants for an affected individual who is late or fails to appear on a given day.  Just as important is the need to consider that an accused with FASD may not understand consequences invoked several months after behaviours, so that sanctions and rewards may have little effect on his or her future behaviour.