Describes a number of foetal abnormalities which occur in the babies of women who have misused alcohol during their pregnancy, affecting the way a baby’s brain develops.
Children with FAS have problems with their neurological development, abnormal growth, and have characteristic facial features. The problems experienced are likely to change as an infant grows up and different problems may be seen at different stages of development, from childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. These may include: learning disabilities, poor academic achievement, poor organisation, lack of inhibition, difficulty writing or drawing, balance problems, attention and hyperactivity problems.
Since foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was first described in the 1970’s, it has become clear that there is a spectrum of abnormalities resulting from foetal alcohol exposure, not only FAS.
‘Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder’ (FASD) is the umbrella term for the spectrum of preventable alcohol-related birth defects, which are a direct result of prenatal alcohol exposure, and it is used for those who are diagnosed with some, but not all, of the symptoms of FAS. FAS lies at the most severely affected end of the spectrum.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is believed to affect as many as 1 in 500 babies born in Western countries, with worldwide estimates at 0.97 cases per 1000 births.
According to the British Medical Association, FASD is in fact the most common, non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK, although it is often misdiagnosed as autism, Asperger Syndrome or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
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