BUILDING AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF AN EVENT
Many individuals living with FASD experience memory problems that can make it hard to recall how an event happened. If an individual is asked to recall what happened, but is struggling to remember, they may tell a story that doesn't reflect the actul occurrence (confabulation). Instead, the story they tell may reflect what they wanted to happen, what they think happened or something they saw happen on television. However, by asking careful questions you can compile a more accurate account of what took place.
- Every question should encourage the client to describe the event rather than reflect on it. This will minimize their need to process how or why it happened and any emotions connected to the event
- Be specific with your questions, for example:
Instead of asking 'What happened?'
Ask: 'How did it happen?' 'Where did you go?' 'Who was there?' or 'Where did you go next?'
Instead of asking 'Why did it happen?'
Ask: 'How did you get involved?' "Who was there?' or 'How did John get involved?'
- Give plenty of time for the individual to process the question and then formulate a response
- Practice active listening; repeat what you have heard back to the person periodically for clarification
Struggles with memory and recall are the direct result of prenatal alcohol exposure and changes to the structure of the brain. Therefore, it is important to remember that the individual's memory may not allow them to tell an accurate story, even with accurate questioning.
Working with an individual to understand an event from their perspective can be useful in many situations, below are a few examples:
- An individual is engaged in an unexpected and confusing behaviour
- An individual does something and you want to explore why they did it and if anyone else was involved
- An individual is involved in an event with other people and you want to learn about their role
TIP: To help you organize the individual's thoughts, you can use a genogram to map what the individual is saying
- Be patient
- Be aware of your ability to influence the individual's response
- Remove any distractions, sounds, smells or unnecessary people from the interview space
- Give the individual a pen and paper so that they can write down the sequence of events
- Avoid asking redundant questions
- Use plain language
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