Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading known preventable cause of mental retardation and birth defects in the United States.

FASD affects an estimated 40,000 infants each year-more than Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome and Muscular Dystrophy combines.

There is NO safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. Even one drink risks the health of an unborn baby.

Of all the substances of abuse, including heroin, cocaine and marijuana, alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus, resulting in permanent disorders of memory function, impulse control and judgment.

Early diagnosis can help prevent secondary disabilities such as mental health problems, dropping out of school, trouble with the law and substance abuse.

There are three specific criteria to diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:

  1. Growth deficiency pre-or post-natally for height, weight, or both
  2. Specific pattern of facial features including short eye slits, a flat mid-face, a thin upper lip, and smooth philtrum (area between nose and upper lip)
  3. Central nervous system dysfunction, such as developmental delays, difficulty understanding abstract concepts, speech/language disorders, or behavioral problems

It is also important to gather a history of prenatal alcohol use-but this is not necessary to make a diagnosis.

Many children who may have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, or other behavior disorders. These disorders may also co-occur with FASD.

Children with FAS or FASD do not respond well to stimulant medications or traditional therapies. They often need extra help with managing their environment, and following simple directions. They often have trouble making friends and have poor social skills. Many have sensory integration problems (sensitivity to touch, sound, light, etc.).

Although many children with FAS or FASD have normal IQs, they often perform poorly in school.

Child Guidance Center is currently working under a subcontract with Northrop-Grumman to provide screening, diagnosis, and intervention services to clients of the agency ages 0-7. If a child screens positive on the facial photographic analysis, he/she is assigned a case manager and offered the opportunity for a full diagnostic evaluation. This evaluation consists of a speech and language evaluation (if indicated), an Occupational therapy evaluation (if indicated), a Psychological evaluation (if indicated), and a medical evaluation by a pediatric geneticist or other medical expert. Child Guidance Center will be working closely with Early Steps, Child Find, and Kids N Care to identify children who may qualify for services.

FASD Resources


  • The Best I Can Be, Living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Effects. Liz Kulp.
  • The Challenge of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Overcoming Secondary Disabilities. Edited by Ann Streissguth.
  • Commentary on ‘Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at the Cellular Level’ (Journal Article). Addiction Biology, June 2004, 9(2). ISSN: 1355-6215. John W. Olney, MD, Washington University, St. Louis.
  • Fantastic Antone Grows Up. Judith Kleinfeld and Siobhan Wescott.
  • Fantastic Antone Grows Succeeds! Experiences in Education Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Edited by Judith Dleinfeld and Siobhan Wescott.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Guide for Families and Communities. Anne Steissguth, PhD, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Our FAScinating Journey: Keys to Brain Potential Along the Path of Prenatal Brain Injury. Jodee Kulp, Foreward by Toni Hage, NDS, Epilogue by Liz Kulp.
  • Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Building Strengths. Creating Hope, Alberta Learning, Alberta, Canada.
  • Trying Differently: A Guide for Daily Living and Working with FAS and Other Brain Differences, 2nd Edition. Fetal Alcohol syndrome Society Yukon (FASSY), Edited by Debbie Trudeau.



  • Students Like Me, Teaching Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Vida Health Communications.
  • Worth the Trip: Raising Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Vida Health Communications.
  • Recovering Hope: Mothers Speak Out about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence.

Support Group

For more information contact Cecily Hardin, LCSW at 448-4700 extension 355; or Chelsea Hoffman, BA 448-4700 extension 357.