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Competency 2: Identification of FASD and Diagnosis of FAS

Diagnosis, Continued

Use of Diagnostic Results

Early diagnosis is important in getting appropriate services. A targeted treatment plan will help improve outcomes. Effective intervention at a young age can reduce risk factors and help prevent secondary disabilities. Secondary disabilities result from a poor fit between the individual and the environment.

Secondary disabilities in persons with an FASD include alcohol and drug problems, confinement in a correctional or treatment facility, and involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system. The chart shows the occurrence of secondary disabilities in 415 individuals between the ages of 6 and 51. Although this is the only study to date of secondary disabilities, anecdotal evidence indicates that these problems occur frequently in persons with an FASD.

Chart showing secondary disabilities among individuals with an FASD (age 6+). Categories for age 6+ are mental health problems–93%, disrupted school experience–42%, trouble with the law–41%, confinement–32%, inappropriate sexual behavior–45%. Category for age 12+ is alcohol and drug problems–38%. Categories for ages 21+ include dependent living–82% and problems with employment–79%.

Source: Streissguth, A.P.; Barr, H.M.; Kogan, J.; et al. 1996. Final Report: Understanding the Occurrence of Secondary Disabilities in Clients With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). Seattle: University of Washington Publication Services.

Interventions for persons with an FASD vary, depending on individual needs. Few interventions have been rigorously tested or proven effective with persons with an FASD. However, certain strategies appear promising and have been shown to help, such as breaking tasks into steps and giving one direction at a time.

Often, the diagnosis is unclear because the individual does not have definite FAS facial features or prenatal alcohol exposure cannot be confirmed. Addiction professionals are likely to encounter clients with an FASD, because about 20 percent of persons with an FASD have alcohol and drug problems. Some may not have a definite diagnosis of an FASD due to inability to identify FAS facial features or confirm prenatal alcohol exposure. If an FASD is suspected, counselors should incorporate strategies used with individuals who have been diagnosed with an FASD.

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