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Competency 1: Introduction to FASD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Terminology and Prevalence Rates

Experts now know that the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure extend beyond FAS. "Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders" is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.15

FASD refers to conditions such as:

FAS consists of a pattern of neurologic, behavioral, and cognitive deficits that can interfere with growth, learning, and socialization. FAS has four major components15:

  • A characteristic pattern of facial abnormalities (small eye openings, indistinct or flat philtrum, thin upper lip)
  • Growth deficiencies
  • Central nervous system abnormalities that include structural, neurological, and functional deficits
  • Maternal alcohol use during pregnancy

Behavioral or cognitive problems may include mental retardation, learning disabilities, attention deficits, hyperactivity, poor impulse control, and social, language, and memory deficits. Partial FAS describes persons with confirmed alcohol exposure, some of the facial anomalies of FAS, and one other group of symptoms (growth retardation, central nervous system defects, or cognitive defects).

ARND refers to various neurologic abnormalities, such as problems with communication skills, memory, learning ability, visual and spatial skills, intelligence, and motor skills. Children with ARND have central nervous system deficits but few or no facial abnormalities. Their problems may include sleep disturbances, attention deficits, poor visual focus, increased activity, delayed speech, and learning disabilities.

ARBD describes defects in the skeletal and major organ systems. Virtually every defect has been described in some patients with FAS. They may include abnormalities of the heart, eyes, ears, kidneys, and skeleton.

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