ADVOCATING FOR CHILDREN WITH FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME DISORDERS
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders GenerallyPrenatal alcohol exposure can cause life altering neurodevelopmental disabilities, referred to in the aggregate as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD). "FASD" is an umbrella term, not a diagnosis. The identifiable conditions associated with
prenatal alcohol exposure under the FASD umbrella are Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (PFAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder
(ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
FAS DiagnosisAn FAS diagnosis connotes impairments in three categories:
1) growth deficiency;
2) central nervous system dysfunction (developmental disability or brain damage); and
3) a characteristic set of facial dysmorphology or malformation.
Prenatal alcohol exposure can also cause:
heart, lung, and kidney defects; hyperactivity, attention, and memory problems; reasoning, judgment and behavioral problems;poor coordination or motor skill delays;
hypersensitivity to sound and touch; difficulty with change; organizational difficulties; poor self-image; depression or withdrawal; problems with truancy; and problems with sexuality.
FASD Effects Are Life-LongAccording to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, infants with an FASD suffer from low birth weight; irritability; sensory sensitivity; poor sucking; slow
development; poor sleep-wake cycles; and increased ear infections. Toddlers with FASD suffer from poor memory capability, hyperactivity, fearlessness, no sense of boundaries, and the need for excessive physical contact.
Grade-school children with an FASD tend to have short attention spans, poor coordination, and difficulty with both fine and gross motor skills. Older children with an FASD have difficulty keeping up in school and tend to suffer from low self-esteem, and teenagers with an FASD often demonstrate poor impulse control and cannot distinguish between public and private behaviors.
An FASD is 100% PreventableAccording to the Institute of Medicine, "Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus." Institute of Medicine, 1996. FASD can be prevented if a pregnant woman abstains from drinking alcohol. FASD does not discriminate. If a woman consumes alcohol during her pregnancy, she is at risk of having a child with an FASD. Women who have an alcohol dependence or other alcohol use disorder are at an increased risk of having a child with an FASD, as are women who have previously given birth to a child with an FASD and who continue to drink alcohol.
Strategies for Assisting Children with an FASDThere is a dearth of evidence-based knowledge on the effectiveness of FASD interventions, but according to NoFAS, children with an FASD can benefit from supportive environments, consistent routines, limited stimulation, realistic expectations, supervision, and multi-sensory learning. Medication may also reduce the symptoms of FASD, including impulsivity, hyperactivity, oppositional behavior, and sleep disorders. See http://www.nofas.org/
No Amount of Prenatal Alcohol Consumption is SafeAccording to the CDC and current studies, no amount of alcohol is safe - and there is no safe time to drink during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and cannot stop drinking, call you doctor and/or use the substance abuse treatment services locator and/or mental health treatment services locator at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.