FASD and C.O.U.R.T.S.: An Educational Acronym for Legal Professionals

FASD and C.O.U.R.T.S.: An Educational Acronym for Legal Professionals

CONFABULATION

Individuals suspected or confirmed FASD often have difficulties understand...ing abstract concepts like time and money and struggle with memory loss. When a person with FASD is unable to remember what happened at a particular time, especially in the criminal justice context, they may sometimes confabulate or weave misinformation into their narrative. Hence, they may be unaware that they are inaccurately reporting the order or even the nature of past events. Typically this behavior is unintentional and is part of the process of filling gaps in memory.

OPPOSITIONAL BEHAVIOR

Individuals with suspected or confirmed FASD have sometimes learned to cover up cognitive deficits with maladaptive and problematic behaviors. If presented with maladaptive and problematic behaviors when asking questions, think about how the question is worded. Do not use abstract concepts or idioms. Make sentences short, concrete, and contain only one topic.

UNPREDICTABLE BEHAVIOR

Individuals with suspected or confirmed FASD sometimes have sensory difficulties and trouble regulating emotions. These problems can sometimes result in situations escalating quickly into aggressive behavior. Remain calm when presented with this behavior. Unpredictable and senseless behavior is also sometimes seen in the commission of crimes for little or no personal gain and without any planning, as an example.

RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS

Individuals with suspected or confirmed FASD sometimes function developmentally much younger than their chronological age. This may sometimes result in the individual interacting inappropriately with others who are of similar intellectual and emotional age in routine social situations. They are also more likely to have been exposed to various forms trauma compared to children who were not exposed to alcohol prenatally. Disrupted patterns of attachment are also experienced by a high number of individuals affected by FASD. All of which can sometimes negatively impact relationships with others.

TESTIMONY

Individuals with suspected or confirmed FASD sometimes have difficulties appreciating the adversarial criminal trial process and the importance of collaborating with a legal team and are likely to tell everyone – including the police – about their crime. In addition, they may be judged incompetent to stand trial, especially as they may be unable to provide reliable and accurate testimony due to cognitive, executive and behavioral deficits even though they may have full scale IQ scores that exceed 70.

SUGGESTIBILITY

Individuals with suspected or confirmed FASD can be naïve and overly trusting and have trouble discerning the truth. Sometimes, they will agree to actions they do not understand without considering the consequences, or confess to crimes they did not commit or that did not even take place.

-Jerrod Brown