FASD Fast Facts
What is FASD?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term that describes the range of effects that can occur in an individual who was exposed to alcohol in the womb.
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
- Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
- Static encephalopathy/alcohol exposed (SE/AE)
- Neurobehavioral disorder with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND/PAE)
How much alcohol is dangerous?
Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading known and preventable cause of intellectual disabilities and birth defects in the United States. (CDC, 2009)
There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy and no safe kind of alcohol to drink while pregnant.
Of all the substances of abuse (including heroin, cocaine and marijuana), alcohol produces, by far, the most serious neurobiological effects on the fetus (Institute of Medicine, 1996)
If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, do not drink alcohol.
How many people have FASD?
Current studies indicate that 1 in 20 persons is born with FASD. Only 20% of persons with FASD have the facial features associated with FAS. Most persons look like their peers but the brain damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure is as severe if not more severe than those with FAS. Because of this, FASD is known as an invisible disability.
Can FASD be prevented?
Yes! FASD is 100% preventable! If women did not drink alcohol during pregnancy there would be no children born with this disorder. The United States Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other federal agencies recommend no alcohol consumption during pregnancy or when trying to become pregnant.
What are the effects of FASD?
Many individuals with FASD are smaller than their peers; some have distinctive facial characteristics. However, brain damage can be extensive even if the facial features are minimal or not present. Individuals with FASD face difficulty in navigating the world around them. They display characteristic behaviors that repeatedly get them into trouble.
What does FASD look like?
Depending on the timing and frequency of maternal alcohol consumption outcomes associated with prenatal alcohol exposure may include:
- Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)
- Small head size
- Shorter-than-average height
- Low body weight
- Poor coordination
- Hyperactive behavior
- Difficulty paying attention
- Poor memory
- Difficulty in school (especially with math)
- Learning disabilities
- Speech and language delays
- Intellectual disability or low IQ
- Poor reasoning and judgment skills
- Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
- Vision or hearing problems
- Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones
Why is diagnosis important?
Due to their strengths, parents, teachers and others often don’t discover their deficits and set expectations the child cannot meet.
Strengths may include:
- Bright in some areas: artistic, musical, or athletic
What are the benefits of a diagnosis?
- Provides answers and may lead to changes in expectations for individuals, families, and providers
- Creates eligibility for services
- Facilitates appropriate interventions and support
What treatment is available?
FASDs last a lifetime. There is no cure for FASDs, but research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development.
There are many types of treatment options, including medication to help with some symptoms, behavior and education therapy, parent training, and other alternative approaches. No one treatment is right for every child. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and changes as needed along the way.