FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. This is not an actual diagnostic term, but is an umbrella term that encompasses all disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Alcohol can actually cause far greater brain and central nervous system damage to the developing child than most other drugs or abused substances. It is important to note that FASD is entirely preventable. There simply is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy according to medical authorities.
There are several actual diagnoses under the FASD umbrella:
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) with confirmed or strongly suspected prenatal alcohol exposure accompanied by nearly all or all of the facial features indicating prenatal alcohol exposure in addition to generally more profound neurological and central nervous system damage. This is the “full meal deal.” It is also the smallest number of cases but they present some of the most difficult problem behaviors.
- Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS) with confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure and only a few of the facial features but the same kinds of neurological and central nervous system damage as FAS.
- Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND). The majority of the cases of prenatal alcohol exposure are in this category. There are rarely any facial features though there are some physical “signs.” However, there is still the potential for all of the same types of neurological and central nervous system damage as FAS. So none of the facial features but all of the types of brain damage.
- Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD). This term is rarely used in the last few years and is self-explanatory.
Below are some of the primary disabilities associated with FASD – not every child suffering from Fetal Alcohol exposure will exhibit all of these primary symptoms. Each child is unique. But it is important to understand that those primary characteristics that they DO exhibit are part of the handicap they must live with. Fetal alcohol brain or central nervous system damage is permanent.
Secondary characteristics are entirely preventable if the parent and child recognize what is happening and take appropriate action to accommodate those primary disabilities (which is why early diagnosis is so important). They set in as the child experiences stress, frustration and the consequences of their primary disabilities.
Some excellent references and resources in this area:
FASD SacValley. This support group focuses on supporting parents dealing with FASD in the Sacramento Valley of CA. See their Facebook page to get involved: FASD_SacValley or once in Facebook search for the group FASD_SacValley.
Making Sense of the Madness: An FASD Survival Guide by Jeff Noble. Go to his really helpful website to download your copy and see all the supportive information he has to offer at FASD Forever.
NOFAS. A website full of extremely helpful information. See NOFAS website
FASD educational workshops and seminars are available through Transformational Families. Contact us for more information or keep an eye on our Facebook page for upcoming dates and information (TFM on Facebook.)