Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) describes a range of conditions caused by exposure to alcohol by a developing fetus. The range of disorders vary from the most recognised foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), where
physical signs are obvious, to problems with behaviour and the brain with no obvious external physical signs (alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorders [ARND]).2,3 This selective review will give an overview of many of the clinically relevant areas of FASD, including diagnostic difficulties, epidemiology, risk, knowledge among the
general public, cognitive profiles and secondary disabilities.
Diagnostic Isssues in FAS and FASD
The diagnostic elements of FAS are made up of three facial features (short palpebral fissures, elongated and flattened philtrum and a thin upper lip vermillion), pre and postnatal growth deficits (below the tenth percentile), neurocognitive deficits and a history of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It is only in the case of FAS that confirmation of alcohol consumption is not required for the diagnosis.1,2 Timing is also important for
diagnosis. When a child is still very young, features such as brain damage or developmental delay may not be obvious, while even at birth there may be signs of the distinct facial features, growth problems and evidence of maternal alcohol exposure. However, without the central nervous system (CNS) deficits, which are not always obvious at birth, a diagnosis of FAS is not valid. Despite this, a possible diagnosis, in anticipation of potential cognitive findings as a child grows older, should be noted and followed up.
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NCC Home Learning have produced a number of FASD titles in partnership with the charity FASawareUK:
These courses are ideal for anyone who may work with individuals with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or anyone wishing to know more about FASD.