University of Vermont

The Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI)

FASD Overview

What is FASD?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), is a non-diagnostic umbrella term, used to describe a range of effects that can occur in individuals who were prenatally exposed to alcohol. These effects can include central nervous system dysfunction, and physical defects as well as behavioral, emotional and/or learning disabilities. 

Types of FASDs1 2:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS is the severe end of the FASD spectrum and the only type of FASD with a diagnostic guideline. FAS is characterized by distinctive facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) damage. People with FAS might have problems with a combination of the following: learning, memory, attention span, motor function, communication, social skills, vision, and hearing. 
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): ARND and ARBD describe fetal alcohol spectrum disorders where individuals were prenatally exposed to alcohol but do not display all of the signs of FAS. ARND refers specifically to various neurological abnormalities, while ARBD describes defects in the skeletal and organ systems.

FASD Fast Facts1 3

  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy-all types of alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) are equally harmful.
  • Alcohol is more harmful on the developing fetus than cigarettes, heroin, cocaine or crack.
  • Alcohol can harm a fetus at any time during pregnancy, even before a woman knows she is pregnant.
  • When a pregnant woman drinks, her child receives the same concentration of alcohol.
  • FASD is 100% preventable by not drinking while pregnant.
  • FASD is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disability, birth defects, and a leading known cause of learning disabilities.

Reading Material from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) FASD Center on Excellence


  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about FASDs. FASD Homepage
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders By The Numbers
  3. Kotsch, J. (2012). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Facts. Women's Health. Apr.

Last modified September 15 2014 11:04 AM

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