Early Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Category — 2.1 Children with Nervous System Disorders: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Children with FASD1 have a combination of disabilities beginning at birth due to their mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Recent studies have shown that fathers may also cause FASD because male sperm can have a contributing factor in the health and development of the fetus.


In Canada there is a diagnostic classification system that looks at diagnostic characteristics  (Fig. 1) that are included below:

Figure 1. Features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) in the Young Child

Features include a small chin or “micrognathia”, skin folds covering the eyelid or “epicanthal folds” and  an “underdeveloped groove between the nose and the mouth” or “indistinct philtrum”

Some of the characteristics of FASD are:

  • Smaller size because of slow growth, of growth retardation;
  • Developmental delays caused by damage in the child’s central nervous system;
  • Problems with heart, liver and/or kidneys.

A child with FASD may show different features in his or her face, legs, arms and feet, deemed medical abnormalities.

Children with FASD generally have developmental delays ranging from moderate to severe cognitive delay/intellectual disability. Other cognitive difficulties may include attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, learning difficulties and often vision and hearing problems.

In Canada, 1 child in 100 has FASD2. Many children are not identified because most of these children do not have any physical characteristics that might lead doctors to screen or assess them.

Intervention Options3

  • Physiotherapy (PT): A child with FASD may exhibit gross motor and coordination difficulties.
  • Occupational Therapy (OT): The child may experience difficulties with fine motor skills, as well as difficulties in the oral/motor area.
  • Speech Language Pathology (SLP): Children with FASD often exhibit serious delays with all aspects of language and communication.
  • Behaviour Intervention (BI): Children with FASD may exhibit serious behavior difficulties.
  • IDP/AIDP: A child may be referred to IDP/AIDP and his or her development may be monitored.
  • SCD/ASCD: The child may be referred to SCD/ASCD and his or her development may be monitored.
  • Mental Health Specialists: A child with FASD may need help from a counselor or a psychotherapist.
  • Academic preparation/Learning specialists: A child may need help getting ready for school and learning how to behave appropriately in school.

For more information on the characteristics and intervention options for FASD, please visit: www.von.ca/fasd.

To learn about FASD in the middle childhood years, please visit the six to 12 part of this course.

1. References
2. VON Canada: http://www.von.ca/fasd/
3. FASD Frequently Asked Questions http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fasd-etcaf/faq-eng.php

February 23, 2011   No Comments