Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe the range of effects seen in some children born to women who drank alcohol during pregnancy.  You might have heard the terms fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol effects (FAE). FASD includes FAS and FAE.

FASD is called a spectrum disorder because of the different effects and the different diagnoses within the spectrum. The most common diagnoses are:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

These diagnoses include mild to severe disabilities. The disabilities can be a mix of cognitive (thinking), behavioural (actions), physical (body or health) or sensory (vision, touch, hearing) disabilities. The disabilities are present from birth, permanent and are different for everyone. For more information about this topic, go to the Understanding section of this site, here

Alcohol is called a “teratogen”. That means it can cause birth defects and can impair the development of the unborn baby.

Children affected by FASD have brain damage that is permanent. FASD is the leading cause of intellectual and behavioural challenges. Some of the problems children affected by FASD might experience in their life include:

  • problems with hearing and vision
  • high activity levels (overstimulation or hyperactivity)
  • high sensitivity OR low sensitivity (seeming shut down) to sights, touch, and sounds
  • problems learning in school
  • speech impairments
  • difficulty adjusting to changes in routine
  • social problems
  • eating and sleeping problems
  • difficulty following directions
  • poor memory
  • poor co-ordination and balance
  • attention difficulties
  • problems concentrating/focusing
  • poor impulse control
  • speech and language delays
  • difficulty linking actions to outcomes
  • difficulty generalizing information
  • slower cognitive (thinking and processing information) pace
  • difficulties with “sequencing” (figuring out how one thing leads to another)
  • difficulties with abstract concepts (such as money and time)
  • difficulties in reasoning and judgment
  • “dysmaturity”—this means they have a younger cognitive age than their actual age