Learn About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) includes a wide range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder / FASD can include physical disabilities, as well as difficulties with behavior and learning. FASD related conditions are permanent and lifelong and there is no cure.

Consuming / drinking alcohol (including beer, wine, spirits, etc.) during pregnancy can cause irreversible damage to an unborn baby. If a baby is prenatally exposed to alcohol, they are at risk for having Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASD is not a diagnosis. It is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur when a developing baby is prenatally exposed to alcohol. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. There are many terms under the FASD umbrella, including these medical diagnoses:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorders (ARND)
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD)
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / FASD is a lifetime disability that affects each child differently. Some children with an FASD have specific facial features and tend to be smaller in height and weight. They often have a brain injury that never goes away. This means both the child’s thought process and behaviors may be very different than a child who was not prenatally exposed to alcohol. The brain damage is the most challenging part of this disability.

Andrew Peterson is one Indiana resident impacted by FASD. When Andrew was 3 weeks old, he was found alone in a Madison County home, nearly paralyzed, born with fetal alcohol syndrome. His brothers and sister were also affected, in varying degrees. It took almost 10 years of immersive physical therapy and speech therapy — and even dance lessons — just to for Andrew to walk and talk functionally. Today, Andrew, encouraged by his adoptive father, Craig Peterson, is an elite marathon runner. He is also a national spokesperson who shares his message not only to educate people about the impact of FASD, but also to share the importance of inclusion and respect for people with disabilities.

ESPN produced a documentary about Andrew – Andrew Peterson, Born to Run

Follow Andrew on Facebook

Learn more about FASD by visiting Indiana NOFAS, an affiliate of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at  indiananofas.org

Photo: Craig Peterson and Andrew Peterson