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Cognitive Supports

Strategies and Accommodations to Support Employment in People with FASD

Cognitive Supports for Employees with FASD​

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Employer Reflections

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Cognitive Supports for Employees with FASD

This section provides a list of types of accommodations and adjustments an employer may need to consider implementing for their employees with FASD. 

Each type of accommodation and adjustment is specific to each type of difficulty that is commonly seen in FASD. 

Consistent and repeated use of the techniques can improve the chances of creating a work environment that supports successful employment outcomes.  

We will address supports for 9 cognitive challenges of employees with FASD. 

  1. Attention
  2. Generalising
  3. Memory
  4. Language and Communication
  5. Decision Making and Judgement
  6. Difficulties Initiating Tasks
  7. Difficulties Carrying out a Plan of Action
  8. Impulsivity (including poor inhibition and lack of self-control)
  9. Self-awareness and insight
Cognitive support 1 of 9


Attention is an important aspect of our daily work and promotes thoroughness, accuracy and consistency when accomplishing our tasks. 

Being able to attend to our work ensures that we complete it to a high standard, minimises the likelihood of errors and reduces the amount of supervision needed. 

Paying attention, particularly for long periods of time, can be challenging to a person with FASD. These difficulties with attention may be misinterpreted by employers as carelessness or a lack of motivation.

Difficulties with attention can present as: 

Dr Richard Cash: 360Edge

Cognitive support 2 of 9


Generalisation means having the ability to transfer skills and knowledge learnt in one setting to other settings. 

This is an important skill to have in the workplace as it ensures flexibility and ease when learning new tasks and activities.

Generalising can be challenging for people with FASD. 

Difficulties with generalisation can present as:  

Strategies to support generalisation:

Cognitive support 3 of 9


Moments of forgetfulness are commonplace.

It is not useful nor efficient for our brain to remember everything!

With moments of forgetfulness come mistakes, such as forgetting to show up to a meeting or forgetting to do a task.

These can be embarrassing and frustrating and can potentially impact our efficiency and goals. Difficulties with memory can be a common challenge for people with FASD.

Difficulties with memory can present as: 

Strategies to support memory:

Cognitive support 4 of 9

Language and Communication

Good communication is the key to any successful relationship. 

Good communication amongst employees, the management and consumers lead to a more productive outcome for all. Communication also promotes a healthier and less stressful workplace.

Communication is often challenging for the individual with FASD due to difficulties with language.

Difficulties with language and communication can present as: 

Dr Annabelle Nankoo: University of Western Australia

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 Decision Making and Judgement

The ability to make decisions and exercise sound judgement are valuable skills in the workplace as this helps employees to make mindful choices that improve outcomes. 

Difficulties with decision-making and judgment can present as: 

 Strategies to support decision-making and judgment: 

Cognitive support 6 of 9

Difficulties Initiating Tasks

Task initiation refers to one’s ability to get started on a task and to overcome procrastination.

When someone struggles with initiation, they take longer to do the task and require more effort.

Difficulties with task initiation can present as:

 Strategies to support task initiation:

Cognitive support 7 of 9

Difficulties Completing Tasks

Problems with successfully completing tasks independently can occur due to difficulties with organisation, planning or coping with the difficulty of the task.

Difficulties completing tasks can present as: 

 Strategies to support task completion:

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Impulsivity (including inhibition and self control)

Being able to inhibit one’s behaviour is crucial in putting a brake on any undesirable or unwanted behaviour.

An example of such an unwanted behaviour is checking one’s phone rather than focusing on a task at hand. 

People who are impulsive can act before thinking things through adequately. People with FASD can have problems with impulsivity, including in the workplace. 

Difficulties with impulsivity can present as:

Dr Kirsten Panton: University of Western Australia

Cognitive support 9 of 9

Self-Awareness and Insight

Self awareness is the ability to keep track of yourself, your actions, thoughts and emotions and consider how they fit with the situation. 

Self-awareness in the workplace allows the employee to take in what is going on around them and to consider them more thoroughly. 

Challenges with self-awareness can present as: 

Strategies to support self-awareness and insight:

Employment Professionals and Employers: Reflections

You play an important role in supporting the person with FASD in your employment journey.

This places you at the centre of the client’s employment experience. Your ability to reflect on your practice can help you grow, learn and, in turn, better support people with FASD as they transition out of the justice system and engage in more positive and fulfilling life experiences, such as work. 

Below is a reflective practice exercise that will assist you to support someone on their employment journey. 

Need to Know/Reflect on…Need to be Able To… 
Your own understanding of FASD and that of the community.Access and keep abreast of information regarding FASD. 
Your own biases towards people with FASD and those of the community.Challenge your ways of thinking about FASD, for example, by seeking alternative ways of thinking about FASD or interacting with people with FASD.
FASD is a brain injury.Integrate and apply knowledge of FASD into your workplace by adopting suitable practices and accommodations. 
FASD is permanent and irreversible.Not seek to change the person but adapt the environment to suit their needs.
Employers’ values and business considerations.Understand and negotiate with the employer to create situations of mutual benefit. 
The level of comfort your clients feels at work and what additional supports they might need.Engage in conversations with the client and encourage collaborative conversations between the client and yourself as their employer.
The presence of support workers at work. Encourage blending in and being discrete. 
The balance between the person with FASD's level of autonomy with their need for supports.Provide supports as needed and requested for the client; seek advice as to when to phase in these supports. 
There will be good days and bad days at work (e.g., two steps forward and three steps back). Be flexible and stay positive.
Who is in the person’s support network and who can be called if needed. Collaborate with the client’s support network.  
Your own boundaries, tolerances and well-being. Practice self-care and utilise your own support network. 


Thank you for taking the time and effort to use this Resource. 

We hope that it provides you with the necessary tips and tools to enhance interactions and improve employment outcomes for people with FASD. 

Thank you to all those that have been involved. Your support and dedication has been so very much appreciated. 


Wesley Citizen is a 23-year-old man who was diagnosed with FASD as a child.

He is a very outgoing person of normal intelligence, however, makes poor decisions, acts impulsively and does not appear to learn from his mistakes. He has spent much of his time in and out of prison for committing illegal acts, some petty and some more serious than others.

Due to his history of illegal behavior, Wesley has missed significant periods of schooling and ceased school after Year 9.

In fact, he has always struggled at school with teachers commenting that he did not pay attention in class, was lazy and careless, disturbed his classmates and was behind his peers in developing his numeracy and literacy skills.

In prison, however, he has participated in educational and vocational programs.

He has developed excellent culinary skills which he is proud of.

Wesley has recently been released from prison and his parents have welcomed him back home.

Wesley feels like he’s found a new lease on life and is determined to change his ways.

His goals are now to join a sports club, make new friends, find work in a restaurant, and hopefully have a family of his own. 

Wesley’s family home is located in a neighborhood that has a notoriously high rate of crimes.

His childhood friends who are his neighbors, have themselves been in prison for several crimes, some of them more serious than the ones committed by Wesley have heard of his recent release from prison.

They decide to visit Wesley to see if he will hang out. 

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