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Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder

26 December 2022

What is foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

FASD is a group of conditions that can affect children whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. It is estimated that approximately one in every 100 babies born in the United States has FASD, and it is likely to be more prevalent than this statistic suggests due to undiagnosed cases.

Children with FASD may have physical, behavioural, and learning difficulties that can last throughout their lives. These can include physical abnormalities such as small head size, facial deformities, hearing and vision problems, heart defects and joint or limb deformities. Behaviourally they may demonstrate poor impulse control leading to aggressive outbursts and difficulty making friends. They may also have trouble with memory skills, learning, speech and language development.

What causes foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

FASD is caused when alcohol crosses the placenta and enters the developing baby's bloodstream. The more alcohol consumed during pregnancy, the greater the risk of FASD in a newborn. Alcohol can pass from mother to baby even before she knows she is pregnant, so it's important for all women who are trying to conceive or who may become pregnant to abstain from alcohol.

What are the signs and symptoms of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Signs and symptoms of FASD vary depending on the amount, timing and type of alcohol consumed during pregnancy. Common signs include: facial abnormalities such as a thin upper lip, small eye openings, wide-set eyes; low birth weight; poor coordination; slow physical growth rate; problems with memory and learning; difficulty staying focused or paying attention; hyperactivity; and behavioural problems such as impulsivity, aggression and difficulty making friends.

How is foetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnosed?

A diagnosis of FASD is based on a physical examination, behavioural assessment and medical history. It is important to note that there are no specific tests for diagnosing FASD; instead, the diagnosis relies heavily on a detailed evaluation of the child's developmental, behavioural, and medical history as well as an assessment by a professional with experience in diagnosing FASD. Genetic testing may also be used to help diagnose FASD in some cases.

What therapies are available for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

The treatment of FASD is focused on helping the child manage their symptoms and reach their full potential. Treatments may include behavioural therapies, medications to manage certain behaviours, physical or occupational therapy for motor skills development, speech/language therapy for communication difficulties, special education services to address learning issues and any other treatments necessary to support the child's health and development. In addition, counselling and support for the family can be beneficial in helping them manage the unique challenges that come with having a child with FASD.

What is speech therapy for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Speech therapy can help children with FASD improve their communication and language skills. Speech therapists work with the child to develop strategies for expressing themselves in a clear, accurate and appropriate way. They also work on building vocabulary, improving grammar and syntax, increasing fluency and articulation, understanding nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or body language, and developing social skills. Speech therapy can be invaluable in helping children with FASD to reach their full potential and lead a successful life.

What is occupational therapy for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Occupational therapy focuses on helping children with FASD develop the skills they need to perform everyday activities. This includes fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination and balance, sensory processing, organization and planning and problem-solving. Occupational therapists work with the child to identify areas of difficulty and help them learn how to adjust their environment or activities to better meet their needs. Through occupational therapy, children with FASD can learn how to be independent and successful in their day-to-day lives.

What is psychology therapy for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Psychology therapy is a type of therapy used to help children with FASD learn how to manage their emotions, develop positive coping strategies and improve relationships. It can be especially helpful in managing challenging behaviours such as impulsivity or aggression. Psychology therapists work with the child on building self-awareness, developing problem-solving skills and teaching ways to manage stress.

What is behaviour therapy for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Behaviour therapy is a type of therapy designed to help children with FASD learn new behaviours and replace challenging ones. This approach focuses on teaching the child positive skills that can be used to replace their negative or inappropriate behaviour. Behaviour therapists use a variety of strategies such as reward systems, self-monitoring techniques, problem-solving skills and developing positive relationships with peers.

What is play therapy for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Play therapy is another type of therapy used to help children with FASD learn how to effectively express their feelings, manage challenging behaviours and build self-confidence. During play therapy sessions, the child will be encouraged to explore their emotions through age-appropriate activities such as drawing, role playing, games and storytelling. This type of therapy is beneficial for children with FASD as it helps them learn how to manage their emotions in a safe, non-threatening environment.

What financial support is available for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Financial support may be available for families with a child who has been diagnosed with FASD through government programs such as the Children's Disability Assistance Program (CDAP). Families may also be eligible for additional assistance from community organizations and charities. It is important to research available options in order to determine what type of support you qualify for. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can also provide financial assistance for children with FASD.

How do you look after yourself and your family?

Looking after yourself and your family when parenting a child with FASD can be challenging, but it is essential for the wellbeing of everyone involved. Make sure to take time out for yourself, whether it's a few minutes of meditation or an hour-long massage. Find ways to connect with other families who are on the same journey as you, and reach out for professional help if needed. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone - there is a supportive community of people around the world who understand your experience and want to help.

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