FASDrefers to the range of disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. FASD includes the diagnostic terms Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) as well as Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Neurobehavioral Disabilities and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD). Children develop FASD when alcohol that was consumed by the mother crosses the placenta, causing damage to the developing brain and interference with the normal development of the child. These effects range from mild and hardly recognizable to very severe-this is why it is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder. FASD is often called an “invisible disability” because its effects may not be noticeable at all. FASD lasts a lifetime, but the way it presents itself may change as the child gets older. There is great variability in the characteristics of those affected by FASD, which affects four common parts of information processing in those of all ages, but to varying degrees: 1. Cause and effect Often there is great difficulty in understanding consequences of actions. Those affected by FASD may have trouble understanding concepts such as ‘If I do A, then B will happen’.
2. Generalization There may be great difficulty in taking information from one situation and applying it to another. For example, if a child is taught not to run into the street in front of their home, she may not understand that this also means that she shouldn’t run into the street at school and in other situations. 3. Differences and similarities Those affected by FASD often have difficulty understanding differences and similarities between people, places and things. 4. Problem solving There may be difficulty in making a decision about a situation based on a similar past experience. Those affected by FASD may also have some difficulty in understanding a situation and taking step-by-step action. The “two truths” of FASD: Although FASD involves real and permanent injury to the brain as described above, this is just one truth. The other truth is that performance exceeds expectations in many areas, including specific areas where there are strengths. Those with FASD can accomplish many things with the proper support.
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