What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the most severe consequence of prenatal alcohol exposure, and is defined by a characteristic pattern of facial anomalies, growth retardation, and central nervous system dysfunction.
What are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)
The term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) has been proposed to represent individuals experiencing significant impairments associated with prenatal alcohol exposure, including not only those with FAS, but also those who might be diagnosed with other related conditions, such as Partial FAS, Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), or Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
How common are FASDs?
Research suggests that in the United States FAS occurs in every .5 to 2 per 1,000 births. If one includes the full spectrum (e.g., Partial FAS, Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder), the incidence is at least 10 in 1,000. This estimate translates into approximately 40,000 children every year born with FAS or another alcohol related disorder.
Notably, FASDs are more common than some other more well-known developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism.
What is the prognosis for individuals with FASDs?
FASDs are life-long disorders and are not typically “outgrown.” Long-term studies that have followed individuals with FAS into adolescence and/or adulthood have found many to have persistent and significant cognitive, behavioral, social, and physical problems. Most individuals affected by prenatal alcohol exposure will need some type of services and support throughout their life.
Factors that appear to improve long-term outcomes for individuals with FASDs include early diagnosis, living in a nurturing stable environment, diagnosis of FAS (rather than Fetal Alcohol Effects), and having an IQ < 70. The protective effects of these latter two factors may be due to the greater likelihood of the individual qualifying for and receiving services if they are diagnosed with full-blown FAS and have an IQ < 70.