Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - General Overview


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe the range of effects that can occur in a child whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy.  FASD includes several diagnostic conditions:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol-related birth defect (ARBD)


A child is diagnosed with an FASD by looking carefully at certain physical characteristics, growth patterns, and learning strengths and weaknesses. Interviews or records are reviewed to determine whether the child may have been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

How Many People Have FASD

Between 2 and 5 of every 100 people have a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  Between 2 and 7 of every 1000 people have full Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Associated Developmental and Learning Issues 

Most children with FASD have some degree of developmental delay or difficulty learning.  Common difficulties include:

  • Difficulty with social skills and building relationships
  • Difficulties with self-regulation
  • Delayed motor skills, poor motor coordination
  • Difficulty with daily living skills
  • Sensory processing difficulties
  • Learning problems: Children with FASD can have cognitive abilities ranging from severe intellectual disability to above average intellectual ability.  Many children with FASD have normal intelligence.  Common learning challenges include:
    • Difficulty shifting attention from one thing to another and solving problems flexibly
    • Difficulty remembering verbally learned information

Associated Medical Conditions

  • In infancy, low birth weight, feeding difficulties, slow growth
  • Problems with sleep and sleep-wake cycle
  • Poor safety awareness

Associated Behavioral Conditions

  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders, bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Personality or conduct disorders
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder

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