The term “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder” (FASD) refers to a range of disorders that are caused by being exposed to alcohol before birth. FASD includes specific conditions such as:
Sometimes the effects of FASD are more visible or obvious (e.g. having distinctive facial features, physical differences, impaired sight or hearing, or a developmental disability). Other times the effects of FASD aren’t obvious at all (e.g. sometimes having trouble understanding instructions). This can make it difficult for people with less-recognizable types of FASD to get diagnosed and treated.
The only cause of FASD is exposure to alcohol before birth. While there is no known cure, FASD can be prevented by avoiding alcohol completely during pregnancy.
FASD is common. It is a leading cause of developmental disabilities in Canada.
The effects of FASD are different for each person, but there are some symptoms that are common. People with FASD may have particular difficulty with:
Nearly 1 out of every 100 babies born is affected by alcohol.
No one asks for FASD, and it can be very difficult for people to cope, especially when few people really understand what FASD is like. It is important to treat all people with FASD with respect and understanding.
Kids and teens with FASD, especially if they have never had their condition diagnosed or are not getting enough support, may experience long-term consequences of their disorder that make their lives more challenging.
These are called ‘secondary disabilities,’ and include things like:
While secondary disabilities are common, they can be prevented. People with FASD need good support from the people in their lives—including friends, family members, employers, and professionals such as social workers or doctors—to live the best life they can.
On the next pages, you’ll learn what you can do if you have FASD, and how to cope when someone you know has FASD.
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Last Reviewed August 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team
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