Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

What is FASD?

Primary Characteristics

The following neurodevelopmental characteristics are commonly associated with FASD. No one or two is necessarily diagnostically significant; many overlap characteristics of other diagnoses, e.g., ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and others. Typical primary characteristics in children, adolescents, and adults include:


Click Here to Add a Title

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder(FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.  FASD is an invisible physical brain based disability.


Primary Characteristics

The following neurodevelopmental characteristics are commonly associated with FASD. No one or two is necessarily diagnostically significant; many overlap characteristics of other diagnoses, e.g., ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and others. Typical primary characteristics in children, adolescents, and adults include:
  • Memory Problems
  • Difficulty storing and retrieving information
  • Inconsistent performance ("on" and "off") days
  • Impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization
  • Ability to repeat instructions, but inability to put them into action ("talk the talk but don't walk the walk")
  • Difficulty with abstractions, such as math, money management, time concepts
  • Cognitive processing deficits (may think more slowly)
  • Slow auditory pace (may only understand every third word of normally paced conversation)
  • Developmental lags (may act younger than chronological age)
  • Inability to predict outcomes or understand consequences
  • Strengths and interests

Strengths and Interests

Many people with FASD have strengths which mask their cognitive challenges.

  • Highly verbal
  • Bright in some areas
  • Artistic, musical, mechanical
  • Athletic
  • Friendly, outgoing, affectionate
  • Determined, persistent
  • Willing
  • Helpful
  • Generous
  • Good with younger children


Secondary Characteristics

In the absence of identification, people with FASD often experience chronic frustration. Over time, patterns of defensive behaviours commonly develop. These characteristics are believed to be preventable and reversible with appropriate supports.

  • Fatigue, tantrums
  • Irritability, frustration, anger, aggression
  • Fear, anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal
  • Shut down, lying, running away


Tertiary Characteristics 

Tertiary Characteristics 

are the net result of a chronic poor fit, failure, isolation and alienation. Like secondary characteristics, they are preventable and reversible with appropriate support.

  • Trouble at home, school, and community
  • Legal trouble
  • Drug / Alcohol abuse
  • Mental health problems (depression, self injury, suicidal tendencies)