Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder 101

Education & Support

What is FASD?



Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (overview)

FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) is not a medical diagnostic term, but an umbrella term that refers to the range of neurological dysfunctions that can affect a child who has been exposed to alcohol in the womb.    

There are many factors that play a part to the severity of damage and types of impairments the child can experience, including but not limited to how much and  when the mother drank during her pregnancy.  Research is still underway as to what damage,  if any,  that the fathers alcohol consumption may cause.

 In 1973, FASD was first referred to as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) by K.L. Jones and D.W. Smith. 

In order for the child to receive an FAS diagnosis, they have to meet the following criteria:
     1. Distinct pattern of Facial Features (smooth philtrum, thin vermillion, and small palpebral fissures)
Central Nervous System Disorders 
Overall Growth deficits, usually in the 10th percentile

Since that time, doctors have come to realize that many
of the children with a maternal history of prenatal alcohol exposure often do not meet the diagnostic criteria of FAS but still displayed some of the characteristics, especially behavioral and neurological. This does not mean that the disability is any less than FAS, just not as visible. The following are the other diagnostic labels:

FAE        Fetal Alcohol Effects
ARND    Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder
PFAS      Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
PAE        Prenatal alcohol exposure
                Static Encephalopathy

Children with FASD can display symptoms of ADHD, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Tourette's Syndrome, Epilepsy, Mental Retardation and various psychiatric disorders, but will often not respond to traditional treatments for those disabilities. Many have IQ's in the normal range, but struggle academically. They become socially arrested and need support and training to respond appropriately. They are often used and abused by peers and have trouble with the law. (Ann Streissguth "Overcoming Secondary Disabilities")