Video: Employability Strategies for Persons with FASD

This video identifies issues related to employability of persons affected by FASD and offers support strategies to help maintain employment.

About this video

Production Date: March 11, 2010
Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Presenters: Brian Mader and Annette Cutknife
Download slide notes for this video (PDF, 13 pages)

Annette Cutknife is a single parent of a child with FASD. She is the FASD Coordinator for Samson Cree. She travels across Canada to discuss FASD and is part of many conferences.

Brian Mader works for Alberta Employment and Immigration as a Career Consultant. He specializes in working with people who have disabilities. His is the co-chair of the Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services Authority sub-committee for adults with FASD.


This video will help you understand:

  • issues related to employability of persons affected by FASD
  • how to support persons affected by FASD in obtaining and maintaining employment


  1. Understanding and helping adults with FASD (5:20)
  2. Employability interventions (1:03:35)

Understanding and helping adults with FASD

  • majority of clients in Mader’s program who are charged with car theft, high speed chases, and joyriding have diagnosis of FASD
  • many leave school at age 15 or 16 with poor performance records
  • transitions are difficult for people with FASD (school to workplace)
  • but transitions are frequent as many lead unstable lives
  • need both occupational planning and educational planning (such as work training)

Primary disabilities of FASD:

  • include organic brain damage
  • musculoskeletal issues
  • medical conditions

Secondary disabilities can include:

  • problems with mental health
  • learning disabilities
  • problems with substance abuse
  • inappropriate sexual behaviors
  • problems with employment
  • dependent living
  • having children they cannot care for
  • early death

Important to know

  • these risk factors contribute to higher rates of illegal behavior and involvement with the law
  • disrupted education and training experiences and school dropout are common
  • when counseling a person with FASD about employment, interview the foster parents, birth parents, the individual and anyone who has worked with them
  • it is important to intervene before the age of 25 to be most effective
  • later substance abuse issues, trouble with the law, marginalization, and poverty tend to set in
  • can be difficult to remedy

FASD and issues with employability

  • 80% of people with FASD have problems with employment and struggle in a competitive work environment
  • persons with FASD appear to have ‘prolonged adolescence’ from age 16
  • can have poor adaptive skills
  • often problems with self-advocacy and self-direction
  • those with at least one advocate will do better than people with no advocate
  • often have difficulty with insight
  • tend to have short attention spans and be impulsive
  • low frustration tolerance
  • hard to delay gratification
  • this affects employability because getting a paycheck at the end of the month or waiting to get a course certificate becomes difficult
  • temp work where they get paid at the end of the day works well
  • financial planning is a challenge; often spend money as it comes in without leaving enough to pay bills
  • poor personal boundaries
  • easily victimized
  • often treated like they will not comply instead of treating them like they do not understand

Employability intervention strategies

  • keep language simple, concrete and plain
  • interview those who support of the adult with FASD
  • build employment interventions into a 24/7 management plan; build a team around a client
  • employment and educational histories likely sporadic and often end badly
  • we need to learn from this by finding out how these things ended and what worked
  • do a comprehensive employability interview
  • advocate when required
  • address the safety concerns for the adult, employer and the community
  • consider a sporadic work program where they do a few weeks here and a few weeks there
  • transitions should be planned in advance, started early and planned to address full needs
  • plans should address the shift from preventing secondary disabilities to managing secondary disabilities
  • refer to social service programs; coordinated community supports are essential to employability and training success
  • community supports must be flexible and include all of the people involved with the person with FASD
  • move to a non-competitive, supported work model
  • use positive life and employment support
  • expect issues to surface and have a contingency plan in mind
  • you have to expect problems and crises all the time
  • inform and train employers
  • demonstrate strengths but do not overlook weaknesses

Job carving

  • identify what the person is good at and focus the job on that certain area
  • let them work to what they are good at
  • long-term and flexible client centered support
  • individuals with FASD require more than one intervention
  • honorable entrances and exits
  • do not consequence them if they are not able to hold a job
  • this is important to stopping marginalization
  • focused training that is practical and short term
  • training accommodations
  • sometimes training needs to fit how the person learns
  • it is low cost and it makes a lot of sense
  • modest or temporary success is a good outcome
  • remember it’s “our” job to make adults with FASD look good and do their best
  • each person is unique; try out strategies; discard those that are not effective
  • anticipate outcomes and always be one step ahead of the client


Modified: 2015-09-09
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