Why FASD is a spectrum disorder

When you think of spectrum disorders, the one most people consider is Autism. We all know autism can have a huge variability in symptoms. Some individuals with autism are non-verbal, others are highly verbal. Some have significant behavior issues, others don’t. What many people don’t know is that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (the old name) also is a true spectrum disorder (hence the name change to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).

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In the speechpathology.com webinar I attended (course #8752), the presenter discussed the intellectual range of individuals with FASD. While many of us are very aware of the lower intellectual abilities of those profoundly affected with microcephaly, etc. the presenter also shared that it IS possible to have genius level IQ and still have FASD. However, even though someone may have an IQ of 125 (or higher), that doesn’t necessarily mean they learn easily or that they don’t have behavior issues.

It’s important to remember, there is a wide range of disabilities/abilities that occur with FASD and we don’t have data to support why there’s such a difference. The type of alcohol may have an impact, certainly, the gestational age of exposure plays an impact (what’s being developed, etc.). The amount of alcohol may have an impact, but there is no way to know how much alcohol is safe. At a crucial stage of development, a half a glass may have impacts on learning or behavior that go unrecognized until the child is much older. Also, not all children prenatally exposed to alcohol have an FASD. However, those that do have an FASD do have brain damage (that’s kind of what it is).

So, let’s talk about behavior for a bit. One of the things that is true is that behavior issues often seem purposeful. This is particularly true when things are practiced over and over and the kid seems to “get it” only to be faced with doing it and failing. Often it seems as if they didn’t try, or didn’t care, when in reality it is something very different. In many instances, they simply did not understand the situation. For many individuals with FASD, we teach (drill) a particular response – but we often fail to teach them what to do when the response is even slightly different. We expect, like most people, they would be able to adapt what they need to do to fit the new situation. Unfortunately, rigid thinking ensures this is not the case. This causes us to think (and feel) like we’ve taught them and taught them and they just won’t do it.

I have more to talk about on this webinar…but I think I’ll save it for another post.

Until then…Adventure on!