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What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) represents a spectrum of disorders that describe the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

Fast Facts about FASD

  • FASD is a neurological (brain-based) disorder.
  • FASD affects learning, social and emotional skills and physical coordination.
  • FASD impairs one’s ability to access their IQ score.
  • Most individuals with an FASD have slight or no exterior facial abnormalities
  • Those with an FASD often appear more capable than they are.
  • 94% of individuals with an FASD also have a mental illness 8
  • 50% of individuals with an FASD have a history in a confinement setting (jail, prison, etc.)
  • 60% of people with an FASD have a history of trouble with the law 10
  • 50% of adolescents and adults displayed inappropriate sexual behavior
  • 61% of adolescents with an FASD experienced significant school disruptions15
  • 80% of children with a full-blown FAS are in foster or adoptive placement 12

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is commonly misdiagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Visit the link here to learn about the distinctions between FASD and ASD.


Massachusetts is in the top 7 states for alcohol use by women of childbearing age in the country, underscoring the presumed high prevalence rate.

Alcohol is Toxic to Fetal Development

Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading cause of preventable intellectual disabilities.( Of all the substances of abuse, including heroin, cocaine and marijuana, alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus. FASDs last a lifetime. There is no cure for FASDs, but research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. (Pediatrics, 2015; Institute of Medicine,1996; Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2017)

[8] Streissguth, A.P.; Bookstein, F.L.; Barr, H.M.; et al. 2004. Risk factors for adverse life outcomes in fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 25(4):228-238
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[1]1 Ibid.
[12] Burd, 2001; May, Hymbaugh, Aase, & Samet, 1983; Streissguth, Clarren, & Jones, 1985. Studies by May et al., (1983) and Streissguth et al., (1985)
[13] Chasnoff, I., Wells, A., & King, L. (2015). Misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses in foster and adopted children with prenatal alcohol exposure. Pediatrics, 135(2), 264-270. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-2171
[14] Lange, S. et al (2013). Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Child Care Settings: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics.September, 2014.

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