Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a serious and widespread problem in this country. Positioned within the community with links to children, families, and healthcare systems, school nurses, and most especially the teachers are a critical element in the prevention and treatment of those affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Although most school teachers are familiar with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and the problems it poses, they may not be familiar with the newer term, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
This paper summarizes information about FASD, explaining its signs, causes, and diagnosis. Moreover, the research on high school completion, characteristics of students with FASD, how to identify these students, and how to help students with this disorder is discussed. Also outlined are some teaching strategies that a teacher could use in a classroom setting. FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDER Introduction
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a term that encompasses the various neurodevelopmental disorders experienced by individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD incorporates the terms Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND). Children with FASD have a wide range of physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities that put them at risk. In addition, they make up a large percentage of children with special health care needs seen in schools.
It is estimated that infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) occur in 1-3 per 1,000 births; estimates for alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) are at least 10 times higher than FAS (National Research Council, 2000). FAS is the leading known preventable cause of mental retardation in western civilization. Fewer than 10% of individuals with FAS or ARND are able to achieve success in living and working independently (Weber, Floyd, Riley, & Snider, 2002). Recently adopted, FASD is a concise, uniform definition for conditions caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.
Specifically, FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis (National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome [NOFAS], 2004)
Signs In 1996 the Institute of Medicine defined several categories of fetal alcohol pathology, from full-blown cases (i. e. , history of maternal drinking, intrauterine and postnatal growth retardation, typical facial changes and brain dysfunction) to cases in which there are neurodevelopmental effects but no physical changes (Stratton et al. , 1996). The institute permits diagnosis of FAS only when there is evidence of maternal drinking, except when the pathognomonic facial changes are apparent, because other conditions do not elicit such changes. The institute’s categories cover the range of so-called “primary disabilities” seen in children with FASD