|Understanding FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders)
FASD is often
termed an "invisible physical handicapping condition." The
effects of prenatal alcohol
and other drug exposure on the developing brain are the most
debilitating aspects of this
condition. These effects are invisible. The only indicators of this
physical disability are found in
learning and other behavioral characteristics.
professionals often find
standard techniques are ineffective. Many people
experience increasing frustration over time when childrens' behaviors
are unresponsive to
traditional interventions. Until recently, there has been little
information linking the "organicity,"
or neurological differences associated with FASD, with behaviors.
linking brain function with behaviors increases understanding, reduces
and contributes to successful outcomes. Knowledge about FASD and
organicity provides a
way to shift perceptions: Children may be understood as having
a problem rather than being the problem.
a result, rethinking and reframing interpretations of behaviors
contributes to developing
effective and appropriate strategies, "trying differently rather than
trying harder." Successful
strategies support children, and contribute to the well-being of
parents and professionals.
supports the development of a family-centered, community-based,
multidisciplinary continuum of care. This collaborative design has been
found to be effective in enhancing communication among parents
and professionals for their mutual benefit.
The following neurodevelopmental characteristics are commonly
associated with FASD.
No one or two is necessarily diagnostically significant; many overlap
characteristics of other diagnoses, e.g. ADD/ADHD, learning
disabilities, and others.
Typical primary characteristics in children, adolescents, and adults
- Memory problems
- Difficulty storing and retrieving information
- Inconsistent performance ("on" and "off") days
- Impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization
- Ability to repeat instructions, but inability to put them
into action ("talk the talk but don't walk the walk")
- Difficulty with abstractions, such as math, money
management, time concepts
- Cognitive processing deficits (may think more slowly)
- Slow auditory pace (may only understand every third word
of normally paced conversation)
- Developmental lags (may act younger than chronological
- Inability to predict outcomes or understand consequences
Many people with FASD have strengths which mask their
- Highly verbal
- Bright in some areas
- Artistic, musical, mechanical
- Friendly, outgoing, affectionate
- Determined, persistent
- Good with younger children
Preventable Secondary Characteristics
In the absence of identification, people with FASD often
experience chronic frustration. Over time, patterns of defensive
behaviors commonly develop. These characteristics are believed to be
preventable with appropriate supports.
- Fatigue, tantrums
- Irritability, frustration, anger, aggression
- Fear, anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal
- Shut down, lying, running away
- Trouble at home, school, and community
- Legal trouble
- Drug / Alcohol abuse
- Mental health problems (depression, self injury, suicidal