What is it?
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is a lifelong condition which falls under the umbrella name given to describe individuals who have been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy – this is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). There are several diagnoses which fall under this term, depending on the individual’s set of difficulties, which are:
- Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS
- Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, PFAS
- Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder, ARND
- Alcohol Related Birth Defects, ARBD
Many people with FASD will have their own areas of difficulties and may have face certain challenges in their day-to-day life. They may also need support with other areas of their life, such as their motor skills, learning and memory, emotional support, social skills and their physical health. However, individuals will also have their own set of strengths and talents, which can be nurtured and supported to reach their potential.
With cases of FASD, the condition will often be misdiagnosed as autism or ADHD, for example, which can often lead to misunderstandings about the support needs the individual requires. However in some cases, the condition will be will undiagnosed.
What are the symptoms of FAS?
Babies who are exposed to alcohol in the womb may experience some of the below symptoms. Although they are permanent, if treatment and support are sought early enough, the impact upon the child’s life can be limited.
- Movement and co-ordination problems, known as cerebral palsy
- Problems with speech, thinking, timekeeping, memory, social skills or maths
- The may be smaller than average at birth, may have a slower growth rate as they age, or be smaller than average as an adult
- They may have certain distinctive facial features, such as small eyes, a thin upper lip, and a smooth area between the nose and upper lip, which may be less noticeable as the child grows
- Have a smaller-than-average head
- Problems with mood, attention or behaviour
- Problems with their hearing or vision
- Problems with vital organs, such as the liver, the kidneys and the heart
My child is showing signs of FAS – what should I do?
If you think that your child is showing signs of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, it’s important to seek support and advice from a GP or health visitor. They would need to know if your child was exposed to alcohol during pregnancy, and an assessment may be required to determine if your child has FAS.
Treatment for FAS
There isn’t any ‘treatment’ for foetal alcohol syndrome, however seeking support and getting an early diagnosis can make a big different to the child’s development.
A team of healthcare professionals would need to assess the needs of each individual child to ensure that the right educational and behavioural support is put in place, and to ensure that you as a parent or carer can access support for you.
Getting in touch with support groups for FAS can also be very helpful in finding out more about the illness, as well as meeting people who understand what you are feeling.
Understanding Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Hear a parent talking about raising children with FAS.
Real Life Experience
If you would like to share your real life experience, please email [email protected]