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Adopting a child is one of the most loving and selfless choices you’ll ever make. But it can bring challenges, especially if your adopted child has a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnosis — or even if you wonder whether they were exposed to alcohol while their birth mother was pregnant.
In this post, we’ll share an overview of FASD, diagnoses on the spectrum, what could cause FASD, and behavior and/or learning symptoms to watch out for.
FASD: An Overview
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a group of birth defects that can occur when a baby’s mother drinks alcohol while pregnant. FASD itself is not a diagnosis, but rather an umbrella term for various diagnoses.
Symptoms in children may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities. Specific FASD symptoms will vary based on the individual.
Prenatal alcohol exposure won’t always result in an FASD, but babies who do develop the condition will have permanent, lifelong brain damage. Children with an FASD have smaller-than-average brains, with an impaired frontal lobe, corpus callosum, cerebellum, hippocampus, and basal ganglia.
Diagnoses on the FASD Spectrum
There are a few syndromes and disorders on the FASD spectrum, including:
- FAS: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (10-20 percent of children on the spectrum). This diagnosis requires three facial abnormalities: narrow eye openings, a smooth area between the lip and the nose (vs. the normal ridge), and a thin upper lip.
- PFAS: Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- ARND: Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (most common on the spectrum)
- ARBD: Alcohol-Related Birth Defects
Please visit this website to learn more about each diagnosis.
Factors that Could Cause FASD
Your child’s disorder may be the result of:
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the pregnant mother (Binge drinking is especially harmful to her baby.)
- Timing of exposure
- The resiliency of the fetus
- The mother’s metabolism and diet
FASD Behavior & Learning Symptoms
Here are a few signs to watch for if your adopted child has an FASD:
- Poor impulse control
- Lack of control over emotions
- Difficulty learning from consequences
- Hyperactivity/Impulsiveness (ADHD)
- Inappropriate friendliness with strangers
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Difficulty with abstract concepts
- Inability to manage money
- Sleep difficulties
- Difficulty with the passage of time
- Fearlessness (high-risk behaviors)
- Poor self-image
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Attention and/or memory deficits
- Sensory processing issues
- Immature social behavior
- Difficulty in school (often manifests around 4th grade)
While there’s currently no cure or specific treatment for FASD, there are things you can do to reduce some of the effects and help your child achieve a better quality of life. These intervention options include:
- Helping your child early on with walking, talking, and socializing
- Working with a family counselor, special ed teacher, speech therapist, and a physical or occupational therapist
- Addressing health issues, such as vision problems or heart abnormalities
- And more
We offer education and ongoing support for adoptive parents — even after they bring baby home.
Gifts of Grace Adoption Support Center has worked with expecting moms, adoptive families, and children in the Lafayette, Indiana community since 2013. We believe that quality, affordable, Christ-centered adoption services empower pregnant moms and dads, create thriving adoptive families, and help all children be placed in a loving home.