What is FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)?

It is important to understand that FASD is an invisible and permanent physical disability due to structural changes in the brain, with behavioral symptoms including:

  • Memory difficulties: good days and bad days
  • Impulsiveness
  • Does not understand consequences/implications
  • Slow processing speed, thinks and listens slowly: “10 second children in a 1 second world”
  • Understanding gaps or “talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk”
  • Takes longer to develop: a 14 year old is more like an 8 year old child in development
  • Very often needs re- teaching
  • Hypersensitive, or hyposensitive when touching, hearing, smelling or seeing
  • Difficulties in understanding concepts of time, money and math
  • Difficulty making transitions

Accommodations such as wheelchairs, ramps, and technological support are made for people with physical and other visible disabilities. It is equally effective and appropriate to provide accommodations for people with FASD, to promote successful lives. These adaptations include changes in attitudes and expectations.

The Neurobehavioral Model

Linking the idea of brain dysfunction with behaviors creates an alternative explanatory theoretical framework that changes the ideas of the learning theory to a neuro-behavioral paradigm to understand the meaning of behaviors. This paradigm redefines the meaning of behaviors, and supports the development of a more holistic and integrated method by systematically considering all facets of the person – physical, cognitive and developmental. Linking brain dysfunction to behavior is consistent with FASD research.

The resulting neurobehavioral construct is reported by FASD research, and is the basis for the FASCETS Model. This Model was developed based on clinical work and research results. It provides an organized approach to rethinking the meaning of behaviors and generating specific, relevant techniques. This structure manages the complexity and diversity of neurobehavioral characteristics.


Since when has FASD been recognized?

There have been references to the possible effects of drinking during fetal development for thousands of years. The first investigation confirming informal observations was carried out in 1899, over a hundred years ago. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was first identified in the United States in 1973. Since then, thousands of research studies have helped to clarify the understanding of this complex condition.

How many people have FAS?

Most researchers agree that approximately 1-3 / 1,000 people in the general population might be diagnosed with the complete syndrome.

How many people are estimated to have FASD?

According to a rather large study that came out in November 2014 (Pediatrics), it is estimated that in the US it is possible that 5% of the population has FASD or 1 out of 20 people

Are people with limited resources the ones that have children with FASD?

FASD occurs when people drink. As expected, there are higher rates in communities where there is greater consumption of alcohol. Research suggests that the higher the educational level, the more alcohol is consumed. Nutrition and prenatal care also appear to play an important role in the degree of damage associated with drug / prenatal alcohol use. There appears to be a differential in diagnostic rates in different groups; however, children of minority parents are diagnosed with FASD more often than the children of white parents.

Do you have to be an alcoholic to have a child with FASD?

No, and this does not happen to all alcoholics who drink during pregnancy

I did not know that I was pregnant during the first trimester and I recognize I drank a little. Do I have to worry?

There is no way to know for sure. As there are thousands of other possible environmental teratogens, neurological changes cannot be attributed solely to alcohol. Stopping drinking at any time during pregnancy improves outcomes for mothers and babies.

Can a father’s drinking affect the outcome of the pregnancy?

There has been some research into the effects of paternal drinking on the outcome of pregnancy, when mothers do not drink or use other drugs during their pregnancy. Paternal use before conception does not cause complete SAF. Research has linked alcohol consumption with subtle neurological differences in offspring: low birth weight, higher rates of attention problems (attention deficit disorder), changes in activity levels (hyperactivity), and other learning disabilities (for example dyslexia).

If a person has FASD, will their children also have FASD even if they do not drink?

No. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the term used for the effects of alcohol on the fetus during pregnancy. However, this is really a sophisticated research question. The question is if the female egg with FASD had been affected prenatally, since the girls are born with all their eggs. Although some research has found higher rates of birth defects in grandchildren of alcoholics, even if their parents did not drink or consume during pregnancy (Friedler), the professional community disagrees on this issue.

I do not want my child to be get away with misbehavior. How can I know what behaviors are attributed to FASD what is just bad behavaior?

Normally, observing behavior patterns without interpreting them as voluntary or organic, will clarify their role. The aim of including the idea of brain function in understanding behaviors is not to limit or allow. The goal of perceptual change is to be proactive, rather than reactive. Explore the idea of primary behaviors and secondary defensive behaviors and think about the needs and characteristics in the environment to support the exploration process.

Each year the latest “pop” diagnostic appears as a fad. How do we know that FASD is not just one more on a long list?

How many people drink? Is it likely that consumption patterns will change dramatically in the next year or two? The conceptual framework to support children with FASD incorporates the idea that differences in the brain can affect learning and other behaviors. This model is believed to help children with other neurologically based diseases, including traumatic brain injury, some serious diseases, and others. It provides a foundation for thinking about behaviors, giving equal weight to the idea that the brain affects behaviors; a concept that seems timely and appropriate.