Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe a range of adverse effects on development when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. This includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).

FASD is estimated to occur in at least 1 out of every 100 live births, though no research has confirmed the prevalence in New Zealand.

FASD is linked to primary disabilities, those that are the direct toxic effect on the developing brain and other organs, such as birth defects, cognitive impairment and memory problems and secondary disabilities such as mental health disorders, educational and social failure when learning and functional needs are not adequately addressed.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is recognised as the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the developed world, but IQ measurements vary with most being in the borderline to average IQ range. However adaptive functioning is found to be much lower than measured IQ would indicate. FASD is described as a hidden or invisible disability. Full FAS, with its physical signs is easier to diagnose than ARND which can be associated with other behaviour disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Accurate diagnosis requires a specialised, multidisciplinary assessment.