Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Fetal Alcohom Syndrome

Introduction

Any amount of alcohol can lead to developmental changes in the unborn child. The risks increase in proportion to the amount consumed by the mother with binge drinking being particularly significant. During the first trimester the foetus is incredibly vulnerable to damage and this therefore includes a period when mothers may be unaware that they are pregnant. Miscarriages are therefore a common result. Where alcohol has been consumed at any stage of pregnancy then there will be increased risk of premature birth and stillbirths.

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Common developmental problems associated with FAS

Children diagnosed with FAS present with the following:

growth retardation
low birth weight
poor coordination and muscle tone
learning difficulties affecting speech, language, social skills or movement
heart defects

In addition children with FAS often present with a reduced head circumference and facial characteristics such as:

Narrow, small eyes with large epicanthal folds
Small upper jaw
Smooth groove in upper lip
Smooth and thin upper lip

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Needs and Diagnoses

As these children mature and begin school they will present with additional learning and behaviour needs. As it is often hard to prove FAS; unless maternal alcohol use was monitored during pregnancy or there is clear history of alcohol abuse; they may often get other diagnoses such as:

Even where FAS is proven the above may be diagnosed as co-morbid conditions as well as physical impairments such as vision and hearing.

Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)

This is a diagnosis when a child does not present with all the features associated as FAS.

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Supporting the FAS child

An individualised programme of support will usually be necessary to enable the child to access school and the curriculum. The nature of support will depend on the individual needs of the child but is likely to include:

additional adult support to help meet behaviour and learning needs
highly differentiated curriculum - likely to be working below level of peers
risk assessment to manage impulsive and risk taking behaviours
overlearning to support weak working memory and other learning difficulties
support for parents
management of medical needs such as prescribed medications
management of sensory needs - impulsive behaviour can be driven by sensory uncomfort.

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You may also be interested in the following pages

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Working Memory

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