Episode 10

Episode 10: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder


March 2nd, 2019

35 mins 8 secs

Season 1

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Drinking at any time during pregnancy may cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It is a lifelong disability for which there is no cure. It is a lifelong disability for which there is no cure. In Canada, the statistics of diagnosed cases are a staggering 1% of the population or 300,000 people. In the U.S. it is estimated that as many as 40,000 babies are born with FASD each year. FASD refers to a range of effects that can occur as a result of being exposed to alcohol while in the womb. A number of factors including how much and at what point in the pregnancy the woman drank alcohol influence the level of impairments the person living with FASD will experience. In addition to being at risk for a variety of physical and learning disabilities, people with FASD experience difficulties with social and adaptive skill development. In the presentation delivered by addictions counsellor Diana Fox, viewers will be introduced to the diagnostic terms used to identify the detrimental effects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure and the impact it has on those living with the disability. Viewers will learn about disabilities and behavioural issues individuals with FASD may experience and some of the challenges with which they may live with throughout their lifespan. Questions for Further Consideration: What preconceived notions did I have about people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder? Many people are familiar with the term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but don’t realize that it is only one of the diagnoses that fall under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder umbrella. Other diagnostic terms include Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder, Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol Related Birth Defects. The presentation by Diana Fox and further reading on the topic may augment your understanding of FASD. What are some of the valuable facts learned through this presentation that can be shared with a caller who is pregnant and has questions about alcohol consumption? Your responses may include: There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy The stage of fetal development and the amount of alcohol ingested impact the severity of brain damage Prenatal exposure to alcohol consumption results in lifelong disabilities There is no cure for FASD, however, people with FASD can do well with appropriate supports and services Paternal alcohol consumption does not cause FASD. However men play an important supportive role during the pregnancy of their partner. Their behaviour can help a pregnant woman stop and/or reduce her alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Be familiar with FASD resources, community supports and share your information What are the resources for supporting individuals who have been diagnosed with FASD in your community? Where can parents or loved ones get help? There are many supports in communities and online that focus on issues related to FASD. Those seeking help may want to be referred to community health representatives, social workers, FASD support groups, inclusive schooling consultants, and agencies that provide developmental therapy for individuals with disabilities. Become familiar with what is offered in your own community. Glossary of Terms: FASD: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a term that describes the range of physical, mental and behavioural disabilities that can occur in an individual whose birth mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is a lifelong disability which includes four alcohol-related medical diagnoses: 1) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), 2) partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), 3) Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and 4) Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD) (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fasd-etcaf/cdnguidelines-eng.php (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder.html)) FAS: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a birth defect caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. FAS refers to distinctive facial characteristics (dysmorphology), delayed growth and damage to the central nervous system (the brain) due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. To be diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a person would meet all of the following criteria: Growth deficiency A unique cluster of facial anomalies, such as shorter eye slits, flat mid-face, smooth philtrum (the vertical groove above the lips) and a thin upper lip Central nervous system damage (including structural, neurological, and/or functional impairment) Confirmation of prenatal alcohol exposure pFAS: partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the medical term used when a person has some of the facial features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, has central nervous system damage and, of course, confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure (www.faseout.ca (http://faseout.ca/)) . ARND: Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder refers to the medical condition of individuals who exhibit a variable range of central nervous system damage and a pattern of behavioural or cognitive (information processing) impairments caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. These individuals do not have the visible signs such as growth deficiencies or the facial features. Although they lack the visible signs of a disability, the central nervous system damage or brain damage can be just as severe as those with FAS or pFAS. It is these individuals who most often fall through the cracks of our social supports and who are often seen as non-compliant, resistant, manipulative and uncooperative. They often have expectations placed on them that they are unable to meet due to the damage to their brain. The most common primary disabilities of FASD are: Difficulty organizing thoughts Difficulty with memory Difficulty with abstract concepts (for example, time and money) Impaired judgments Slow cognitive pace Impulsivity Communication challenges (“can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk”) Inability to generalize information The most common secondary disabilities of FASD are: Substance use Mental Illness School problems Trouble with the law Violent or threatening behaviour Employment Living independently Homelessness Sensory Integration: provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour. Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Signs of Sensory Integration Dysfunction: Deficits in SI result in confusion in the interpretation of incoming sensations (sounds, smells, touch) which can result in individuals becoming easily overwhelmed by relatively commonplace events/circumstances. This may lead to: Sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds Under reactive to touch, movement, sights, or sounds Easily distracted Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness Impulsivity, lacking in self control Difficulty making transitions from one situation to another Inability to unwind or calm self (www.sensoryinfo.com (http://www.sensoryinfo.com/))