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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur to a fetus which has been prenatally exposed to alcohol. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. FASD is the number one cause of Developmental Disabilities.

What is FASD?: News

Primary Symptoms

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 include:

  • 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 age)

  • Inability to predict outcomes or understand consequences

  • Strengths and interests   **see below

Secondary Symptoms

People with FASD can experience chronic frustration when their needs are not being met and accommodations are not made. Over time, patterns of defensive behaviors commonly develop. We often see this in individuals who are not recognized as having FASD or who have been incorrectly diagnosed. These characteristics are believed to be preventable and reversible with appropriate supports.

  • Fatigue, tantrums

  • Irritability, frustration, anger, aggression

  • Fear, anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal

  • Shut down, lying, running away

Tertiary Symptoms

These are the net result of being chronically misunderstood, experiencing failure, isolation and alienation. Like secondary characteristics, they are preventable and reversible with appropriate support.

  • Trouble at home, school, and community

  • Legal trouble

  • Drug / Alcohol abuse

  • Some mental health problems (depression, self injury, suicidal tendencies)

**A Word about Strengths & Interests

Many people with FASD have strengths which mask their cognitive challenges.  Typical strengths include:

  • Highly verbal

  • Bright in some areas

  • Artistic, musical, mechanical

  • Athletic

  • Friendly, outgoing, affectionate

  • Determined, persistent

  • Willing

  • Helpful

  • Generous

  • Good with younger children


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What is FASD?: Welcome
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