How does Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) affect your child?


When a mother drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, her baby can be exposed to it while in utero. This can affect their physical, emotional, and mental development. There is no safe levels of alcohol while pregnant. It appears that the first three months of pregnancy is the most critical, but when a mother drinks heavily, it can negatively affect the baby during any stage of the pregnancy. The baby will more then likely be diagnosed with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).

FAS (fetal alcohol symptoms) and FAE (fetal alcohol effect) fall both under the FASD umbrella, in which FAE impacts the child the least of the disorders.

Symptoms of FASD

  • Flat nasal bridge
  • Smooth and thin area between lip and nose
  • Thin upper lip
  • Eyes a bit too close
  • Upturned nose
  • Webbing between fingers and toes
  • Heart murmurs
  • Very slow growth during and after birth
  • Small head circumference (microcephaly)
  • Poor coordination
  • Sleep problems
  • Learning problems
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Short attention span
  • Poor impulse control and self regulation
  • Tendency for violent thoughts and actions


Most FASD children have very lower IQ in certain areas or low IQ in all areas. The classic WISC-IV test shows the overall IQ for FASD around 65, which is considered developmentally disabled. Some children have much higher scores in some areas such as Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning and they might have much lower scores in the Working Memory and Processing Speed which still causes major learning issues.

FASD children have a difficult time in school

FASD children are often very social and outgoing, but they miss most of the important social cues that other children learn. They cannot recognize facial expressions and react to it. They come too close to other children and invade their personal space. Because of lack of coordination, they often bump into other kids and/or perform poorly in sports. They often do not have the capacity, language, or patience to establish long-term friendships and are therefore frequently isolated. This increases their anxiety and hunger for attention.

Schoolwork will be very difficult for them. Repetition, technology aids, and novel programs will be a key to their success. Their brain has been described as “Swiss cheese.” One day they might remember how to spell a word, but the next day it is all gone. Times tables, spelling words, long division, complex ideas will likely be very difficult for a FASD child.

Consider buying an iPad. There are a lot of apps that would help a child with FASD. One of those apps is eReading: Gulliver’s Travels. It helps children improve their reading. This eReading app provides the repetition that a FASD child needs.

Grim FASD Statistics

It is estimated that over 40% of the prison inmates have some form of FASD due to their poor impulse control, lack of logically thinking, inability to withstand peer pressure, and tendency to violence. Over 60% of the adopted children with FASD end up in jail, frequently before they are even 18 years old! Often these children are close to illiterate and have trouble reading.

FASD is for Life

FASD symptoms do not go away. They might be mitigated by prescription drugs, special services at school, a special school, adjustments of the parents, improved coping skills when they get older, counseling, but the majority of FASD children will need lifelong, expensive, and intensive care.

If you plan to adopt a child and you suspect they have FASD, do some research on this condition and determine how severe their FASD is. Having a severe FASD child in your home, might not be appropriate for your situation.

Jolanda Witvliet

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