Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability.

People with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and may need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.

You can’t tell if someone has FASD just by looking at them. There are also no specific medical tests, like a blood test, that can tell us. In order to determine if someone has FASD they must be diagnosed by a multidisciplinary team of experts. FASD is a lifelong disorder but early and effective interventions and supports can improve outcomes.

Overview For Parents

  • FASD is caused by alcohol exposure during fetal development.
  • FASD is a very complex disorder and it impacts each person differently.
  • There are a lot of research studies looking at how to improve FASD prevention, diagnosis, and interventions.
  • The interventions and supports that each person with FASD needs are unique and will depend on their specific strengths and challenges, as well as their environment and support system.
  • In order to get an FASD diagnosis, you have to be assessed by a diagnostic team made up of a number of different professionals.

Overview For Clinicians

  • Recent studies estimate that 4% of individuals in Canada have FASD, making it the country’s leading developmental disability.
  • Early recognition and diagnosis are key to helping ensure individuals with FASD and their families have effective supports. The 2015 Canadian Diagnostic Guideline for FASD recommends a multi-disciplinary team approach to assessment and diagnosis.
  • FASD is challenging to diagnose because the disability is not well known; the signs and symptoms of FASD often overlap with other disabilities; individuals with FASD often have comorbid conditions; and an accurate diagnosis often relies on confirmation of prenatal alcohol exposure.
  • In order to be effective, interventions and supports for individuals with FASD should be tailored to their unique strengths, challenges, and environment.
  • People with FASD have high rates of comorbid conditions, with over 90% of individuals with FASD experiencing at least one additional mental illness in their lifetime.
  • The rates of FASD are higher in certain populations, like the child welfare and criminal justice systems.