What is FASD?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term for a neuro-developmental disorder which results from prenatal alcohol exposure. Individuals with FASD can experience complex physical, behavioural, learning and intellectual problems that persist throughout the lifespan. FASD is diverse and individual depending on when alcohol was consumed during brain development.
Research has consistently found the brain to be the organ most sensitive to the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, as the brain is developing throughout the entire pregnancy. The wide continuum of impacts includes both physical and cognitive (learning and behavioural) effects. The average IQ for full Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is about 70, but more importantly the IQ range for all on the spectrum is from 20 – 130. IQ, however, is not the only measure of brain function and many people suffering from FASD can have an ‘average’ IQ but are seriously affected by deficits in their adaptive and executive functioning. This manifests itself in what are termed Primary Behaviours. Diane Malbin lists these as:
Dysmaturity: socially or developmentally younger than their chronological age
- Slower processing pace
- Impulsivity, distractibility
- Memory problems and inconsistent performance
- Can have strengths in certain areas
- Difficulty generalising, forming links and making associations
- Difficulty abstracting and predicting outcomes
- Over and under sensitivity to stimuli
Secondary Behaviours are those that develop over time, when there is a lack of accommodation in the environment. These are often defensive behaviours and are preventable if interventions are in place. Again, Diane Malbin lists these as:
- Fatigue, frustration
- Anxious, fearful
- Rigid, resistant, argumentative
- Poor self-esteem
- Self-aggrandisement, attempts to look good
- Isolated, few friends, often picked on
- Acts out, aggression
- Interrupted school experience – stand downs, suspensions, expulsion
- Sexual problems
- Truancy, run away and other forms of avoidance.
- Trouble with the law
- Depression, self-destructive, suicidal (most common in adolescents and adults)