What are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or FASDs are conditions that can potentially occur in a child whose mother consumed an excess amount of alcohol during pregnancy. The conditions can cause growth, mental and physical problems. Children with FASDs typically experience a mix of these problems. Many professionals say there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy that can be determined.

What are the types of FASDs?

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): This diagnosis is on the severe end of the FASD spectrum. Children diagnosed with FAS may have abnormal facial features, growth delays, learning disabilities, communication problems, and many other developmental issues. Children diagnosed with FAS typically have a difficult time in a school setting and with social interactions.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): Children with ARND may experience cognitive disabilities and struggle with memory, attention, judgment and poor impulse control.
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): Children with ARBD may suffer from problems with the heart, kidneys, bones or hearing. In some cases, a mixture of symptoms can occur.

What does it mean to have FASDs?

Children with FASDs may have the following symptoms:

  • Delayed growth before and after birth
  • Muscle tone problems
  • Poor coordination
  • Developmental delays in the following areas:

o   Thinking

o   Speech

o   Movement

o   Social skills

  • Abnormal facial features
  • Small head
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Poor memory
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones

What is the treatment for FASDs?

FASDs affect people for their entire life and there is no cure.

Researchers have indicated that tackling the problem early-on through intervention services such as special education and physical, occupational and/or speech therapy can improve a child’s development.

Every child is different and, therefore, treatment options will vary by child. A doctor can recommend options for early intervention services that best meet the child’s needs.

About FASDs

  • Each year in the United States, nearly 40,000 babies are born with an FASD.
  • FASDs are more common than new diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder.
  • FASDs are the leading preventable cause of intellectual disabilities.

Do you have an experience with FASDS? If so, please share it here.

Reviewed by Mel Hendrickson, RN and Director of Health Services at Penfield Children’s Center

“Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDS).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 22 September 2011. .

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence. 11 October 2013. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 26 September 2013. <http://fasdcenter.samhsa.gov>.

“Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.” PubMed Health. 8 August 2012. National Center for Biotechnology information. 18 June 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001909/>.

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