Know the signs of FASD and how to control itPublished 7:23pm Saturday, July 28, 2012
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.
These effects can include physical, behavioral, mental and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.
It is identified by abnormal facial features, central nervous system problems and slowness of growth, and occurs when pregnant women drink alcohol and pass the alcohol along to their unborn babies through the blood stream.
FASD can cause physical and mental disabilities of varying levels of severity (including intellectual disability).
The prevalence of FASD is not known. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention studies have documented FAS prevalence rates ranging from 2 to 15 cases per 10,000 live births. Other prenatal alcohol-related conditions are believed to occur approximately 3 times as often as FASD. FASD occurs in all types of homes and families in the U.S. The incidence of FASD is higher among certain tribes of Native Americans and Alaska natives. Also, it is not uncommon for adoptive parents to discover their adopted child has FASD.
Children with FASD can have serious lifelong disabilities other than intellectual disabilities, such as learning disabilities and serious behavioral problems. The good news is FASD is not hereditary and only occurs if a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy. In other words, FASD is 100 percent preventable according to the CDC.
Deciding if a child has FASD takes several steps. There is no one test to diagnose FASD, and many other disorders can have similar symptoms. In general, FASD is diagnosed by 4 criteria:
1. Growth deficiency in height and/or weight either prenatally or postnatally.
2. Specific pattern of facial anomalies: short eye slits, smooth or indistinct philtrum (the ridges running vertically between the nose and lips) and a thin upper lip.
3. Some brain damage to the central nervous system demonstrated through microcephaly (small size of the brain), tremors, hyperactivity, fine or gross motor problems, attention deficits, learning disabilities, intellectual impairments and possible intellectual disability.
4. Evidence of alcohol use by the birth mother during pregnancy,however, some diagnoses are made without this criteria.
There is no cure for this condition and it does not appear to get better with age. The damage of FASD caused by a mother’s drinking during pregnancy is permanent.
However, with early identification and diagnosis, children can receive services that can help maximize their potential. They will benefit from early intervention services and an individualized education program in school that includes preparation for transition from school to work and possible further education.
Many people with FASD benefit from one-on-one counseling support. In addition, they often require intensive service coordination if they do not have someone who can coordinate the many services they need such as on-going individual therapy, job coaching, housing, and transportation.
Secondary conditions (conditions that occur due to having FASD) often occur later in life, such as inability to live independently or hold down a job, mental health problems, drug/alcohol addictions, failure to develop appropriate sexual behavior and consequent legal problems.
Once FASD is diagnosed in a child, secondary conditions can be reduced and in some cases prevented altogether. Children are better protected from developing secondary conditions if they are:
1. Diagnosed before age 6.
2. Live in a stable and nurturing home.
3. Never experience violence against themselves.
4. Stay in each living situation at least 2.8 years.
5. Experience a good quality home from 8 to 12 years of age.
6. Apply for and are eligible for developmental disabilities services.
7. Have a diagnosis of FAS rather than FASD.
8.Have their basic needs met.
Jamey Helgeson is the Program Director at The Arc of Mower County and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 507-433-8994, Extension 102. You can also visit our website (www.arcmowercounty.org) and follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/arcmc) or Like me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/JameyTheArcofMC).