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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Northern California

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

  • Occur in between 2 and 5% of the population.

  • Can produce symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, AD/HD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Reactive Attachment Disorders--and bad parenting--among others.

  • Go almost entirely unrecognized*, as most people with FASD have normal IQ, speech and appearance. Only a small fraction have the facial features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

  • Range widely in severity and presentation from mental retardation to mild attention, learning or social problems. Almost always impair reasoning, planning, judgment and memory. Frequently cause sensory disturbance.

  • Do not respond to normal parenting/teaching approaches. Without diagnosis and support, parents feel crazy, ashamed and exhausted, as the rest of the world freely offers its criticism and incorrect (and contradictory) remedies to distressing behavior.

  • Cause undiagnosed people with FASD to feel crazy, ashamed and exhausted because they consistently do not meet expectations (including their own) even though they may be trying their very hardest.

  • Fill our jails and prisons, homeless shelters and hospital emergency rooms, chronic welfare caseloads and substance abuse centers.

  • Are particularly common in foster care, where there is additional complication from trauma and neglect. 

  • When recognized and appropriately addressed**, can be managed so that the person's true gifts have a chance to bloom.

  • ARE--THIS SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING--ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE. Exactly how much alcohol it takes to cause damage depends on a combination of genetics, other substances and life circumstances of the mother. It is ALWAYS a gamble...not unlike Russian Roulette.   Studies show that impairments can result from very modest drinking. 

  • Women with college educations and incomes over $50K are the most likely to keep drinking even after being counseled to stop.    Their affected children are often diagnosed with complex AD/HD.    Therapeutic residential schools are full of such children.

* * *

*Outside of areas that have awakened to the reality of FASD--Washington, Alaska, Minnesota and Canada being excellent examples.

**For more on intervention, see "Resources"