An examination of executive functioning in adolescents with FASD in a self-regulation intervention

Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2024 May 15:1-9. doi: 10.1080/21622965.2024.2349301. Online ahead of print.


Adolescents with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) often have challenges with executive functioning (EF), which impacts their ability to self-regulate. In this study, 23 adolescents with FASD completed a self-regulation intervention. The intervention was a manualized Teen Adaptation of the Alert Program®. A nonrandomized waitlist control design was used, and participants completed pre- and post-testing using performance-based measures of EF, and rating scales of EF were completed by caregivers. Results were analyzed three ways; 1) intervention and waitlist control group comparison, 2) whole sample pre-and post- test comparison, and 3) using Reliable Change Indexes to examine individual-level clinically relevant changes. No significant intervention effects were found when comparing the intervention and waitlist control groups. A significant difference was found on a measure of verbal inhibition when total sample pre-and post-test scores were compared. Using Reliable Change Index analysis, 30% participants showed reliable change in the direction of improvement on direct measures of EF, and 57% demonstrated reliable change in the direction of improvement on rating scales. This research study underscores the importance of investigating both individual and group level changes when analyzing data, as well as using reliable change to understand clinically meaningful effects that may be otherwise masked. These findings highlight the potential of the SR intervention to positively impact EF in adolescents with FASD. This study contributes to the growing literature that demonstrates the potential of individuals with FASD to benefit from direct intervention.

Keywords: FASD; Intervention; adolescence; executive functioning.