Individuals with FASD tend to show high rates of impulsivity and risky behaviour. Impulsivity becomes a concern in young childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood along with unpredictable behaviour and risk taking. Risky and impulsive behaviours may show up in many different forms in individuals with FASD.
In childhood, impulsivity may appear as a lack of self-monitoring or seeming unable to learn from consequences. A child’s difficulty with executive functioning can result in some physical danger such as running into the street. The best way to counter this is constant supervision in risky situations and a repetition of the rules that keep them safe.
In adolescence and adulthood, impulsive and risky behaviours may show up as numerous secondary disabilities such as dropping out of school, drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency, self harm or suicide attempt, and inappropriate sexual behaviour or promiscuity.
Many of the impulsive and risky behaviours displayed by individuals with FASD may be due to executive function deficits. For example, a lack of inhibition skills is associated with higher rates of delinquency and high-risk behaviours. Inhibition acts as the brains “break pedal” allowing time for a familiar response to be replaced with a potentially healthier response. Difficulty planning ahead or anticipating later consequences for their immediate action is another area of EF that may be impacted in individuals with FASD, and could present as impulsive behaviour. These behaviours may be interpreted as willful ignorance or disobedience but actually reflect differences in their cognitive skills sets. For example, someone with FASD might lie because of memory or recall difficulties or trying to please another person with what they think they would want to hear.