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Winter 2001 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Clarifying a Point about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

By Cheri Scott, Parent and Family Specialist, Alaska Dual Sensory Impairment Services

After reviewing the information included in the Fall 2000 issue of SEE/HEAR on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE), I feel like I need to clarify one point. Individuals affected by FAE can have neurological difficulties just as severe or worse than those who are diagnosed with FAS. The difference is that FAE doesn't include the cranio-facial abnormalities and growth retardation. When that is the case, the neurobehavioral difficulties can be easily misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Because the child does not have any obvious disability, families and service providers interpret these behaviors as non-compliance or laziness, or come to think of the child as just a "bad kid." This, of course, can lead to a multitude of secondary disabilities (as documented by Dr. Ann Streissguth). Her study showed that a child with FAS was more likely to be identified at a younger age than a child with FAE. As a result, the FAS child and family received intervention and support earlier, resulting in more positive lifelong outcomes.

I want to thank you again for sharing our story with educators, service providers and families in your state. Every time we bring this topic out into the open we get one step closer to ending the nightmare of prenatal alcohol exposure in our communities.

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Last Revision: September 3, 2003