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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - Overview

By Vicki Mozo



Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS is a congenital disorder characterized by a pattern of physical and mental defects in a child. In the United States, 1 in every 750 infants shows signs and symptoms of FAS1.



FAS is largely caused when a mother consumes alcohol (such as wine, liquor, beer, etc.) during pregnancy.



There are no precise diagnostic tests for FAS but the following criteria are used to diagnose it:
  • Growth or developmental deficiencies such as poor prenatal or postnatal height and/or weight
  • Deformities in physical features such as smooth philtrum, short palpebral fissure lengths, and thin upper lip2
  • CNS problems such as small head size, attention deficit, hyperactivity, and poor coordination
  • Alcohol exposure at pregnancy

Care should be taken when diagnosing a child with FAS since the behavioral patterns resemble that of other disorders, such as Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).



When a child is born with FAS the deformities are already permanent and the extent of damage varies from one another. Hence, the mode of treatment may be effective to some but not to others. A doctor may therefore recommend a modality that differs from one patient to another. Below are the major forms of treatments for child with FAS. Most of these treatments are based on the CDC guideline treatments for FAS3:


Medical care

A child with FAS needs basic health care such as immunizations, good nutrition, exercise and hygiene. Additional medical care or intervention is necessary as prescribed by a specialist.



There is currently no absolute cure for FAS. But, there are medications that can be given to improve symptoms. These treatments may include stimulants (for hyperactivity and other behavioral problems), antidepressants (for signs of depression or anti-social behaviors), neuroleptics (for aggression), and anti-anxiety drugs (for anxiety attacks).


Behavioral therapy

Behavioral and educational therapies include friendship training, math tutorials, executive functioning training, parent and child interaction, and parenting. In friendship training, the child is encouraged to interact with friends and playmates to improve social skills. The child may also need to attend math tutorials to help him or her improve math skills. The executive functioning training helps a child to build behavioral awareness, self-control, and skills such as reasoning, planning, memory and problem solving. In parent-child interaction therapy, parents are advised to actively interact with their child to foster discipline with the help and guidance of a coach. Parenting goes beyond the role of providing care and comfort to their child. They are advised to undergo behavior management training as well to help manage distress and alleviate if not resolve problems in child behavior.


Educational programs

The child's school progress should be closely monitored through a strategic approach tailored to the needs and weak points of the child.


Alternative Approaches

Some alternative programs or trainings that claim to help children with FAS are yoga, meditation, art therapy programs, natural-assisted therapies, and animal-assisted interventions4.



The precise amount of alcohol consumed to cause such condition is still unfounded. Research found that a moderate to heavy consumption of alcohol causes FAS whereas others observed FAS in infants born of mothers who consumed even a small amount of alcohol. There is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption at any time during pregnancy. Therefore, to avoid incurring FAS to your child avoid alcohol consumption if you are planning to get pregnant as well as while you are pregnant.




  1. "Fetal Alcohol Syndrome." KidsHealth - the Web's most visited site about children's health. Ed. Linda Nicholson. June 2008. Kidshealth.org
  2. "FAS Facial Features." UW Departments. Washington.edu
  3. "CDC - FASD, Treatments - NCBDDD." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  4. Chandler, Cynthia K. Animal assisted therapy in counseling. New York, NY: Routledge, 2006. Web.


Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide information and individual opinion of the author (and not the site). Any information contained in this article should not be used to replace professional or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


To cite (APA-style):
Mozo, V. (2011, Jul 12). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - Overview. Biology-Online.org. Retrieved from http://www.biology-online.org

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