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 FASDs

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): FAS is the severe end of the FASD spectrum. 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): ARND is a term used to describe a complex range of disabilities in neurodevelopment, behaviors, adaptive skills, and self-regulation. Individuals with ARND were prenatally exposed to alcohol but do not display the distinctive facial features if FAS, and may or may not present with growth deficiencies and structural/functional central nervous system abnormalities. 
    • Neurobehavioral Disorder associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE): ND-PAE is a diagnostic classification, but not an official mental disorder diagnosis, in which an individual was prenatally exposed to alcohol and has mild impairment of neurocognitive functioning, self-regulation, and adaptive functioning.
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): ARBD describes the physical defects in the skeletal and organ systems that are associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. These defects include malformations in the heart, skeleton, kidney, ear, and eye.

FASD Fast Facts

  • 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.

References

  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. Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (ICCFASD) (Oct. 2011) Recognizing Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) in Primary Health Care of Children
  4. National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) What is ARBD?
  5. National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) Recognizing FASD
  6. Kotsch, J. (2012). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Facts. Women's Health. Apr.

Last modified October 17 2014 10:47 AM

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