Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Current issues in awareness, prevention and intervention

CFCA Paper No. 29 – December 2014


FASD reflects a range of preventable and lifelong disorders that arise as a direct result of prenatal alcohol exposure. The primary symptoms associated with FASD mean it is difficult for young people to learn from past experience, to generalise and apply what they have learnt in one situation to another, and to predict the consequences of their actions. They may also have difficulty in transitioning from one situation to another, or one task to another, or in learning and applying social rules in new settings.

Currently in Australia, awareness and expertise in FASD is relatively underdeveloped. Current developments include the development of national diagnostic criteria and ongoing collaborative prevalence research, conducted in partnership with local Indigenous communities (Fitzpatrick et al., 2012).

FASD is a "hidden" disability, and easily confused with wilful disobedience or other conditions such as ADHD. Children affected by FASD are in contact with multiple services and systems by virtue of their complex needs. Doctors, teachers, family therapists, child welfare and youth justice case workers, among others, need to be aware of the behavioural symptoms of FASD and of the risk factors for alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Research is needed into the effectiveness of prevention and early intervention programs for mothers, children and families affected by this lifelong condition.