Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or FAS, is a recognizable pattern of growth deficiencies, physical characteristics, and cognitive or developmental delays and disorders.

FAS is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Alcohol is a teratogen. Teratogens are substances that may cause birth defects. Sometimes a child will not have the physical features associated with FAS, but may have developmental, learning or behavioral problems that would be classified as Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) also called, Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND).

The Diagnostic Process

The terms FAS, FAE (fetal alcohol effects), and ARND (Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder) as well as several other terms is not always consistent. Sometimes FAS will be used to cover any potential prenatal alcohol effects, while others may use it only for cases where there is confirmed maternal drinking and physical characteristics. ARND has replaced FAE and is now the more commonly accepted term for developmental impairments without the facial and growth characteristics. What term is used is perhaps not as important as ensuring an accurate evaluation and appropriate management.

Accurately diagnosing FAS and ARND is vitally important. This can be difficult for many reasons, including the fact that there are other conditions and syndromes that may resemble FAS and/or ARND.

What Can Be Done?

If you are at all concerned that your child may have either FAS or ARND, it is very important that you seek professional assistance in obtaining a diagnosis. Diagnosis is complex and involves extensive history-gathering of both the child and, where possible, the childŐs biological parents, and a thorough medical exam. Diagnosis may also involve referral to specialists.

The FAS Multimedia Guide is a multimedia CD-ROM intended to help care providers understand FAS and related disorders is available from The Academic Edge, Inc.: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Multimedia Guide for Parents and Care Providers. The CD is available for both Macintosh and Windows.