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National Organisation for FASD Australia

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General FASD FAQs

Here are some answers to questions we frequently get asked about FAS & FASD via our NOFASD Australia support service. If you have further questions or concerns relating to your specific situation please do not hesitate to contact us.

We would like to thank the parents that provided feedback on these FAQs.

If you have a question that is not on this page, please contact us. NOFASD’s qualified and experienced staff will be happy to answer your questions and provide confidential, accurate advice.

More Frequently Asked Questions About FASD

FASD General - Frequently Asked Questions

While there are overlaps in symptoms and challenges among Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), each condition presents its own unique set of complexities. It’s essential to recognise that individuals with FASD may also exhibit symptoms commonly associated with ADHD and ASD.

Treatment and support strategies often aim to address similar barriers across these conditions, acknowledging their comorbidities. However, it’s crucial to tailor interventions to meet the specific needs of each individual. For instance, while some approaches might align between FASD and ASD due to their shared neurodevelopmental aspects, the nuances in language comprehension, social skills, and understanding of cause and effect in individuals with FASD often necessitate a distinct intervention approach.
The approach to engaging individuals with FASD differs from that of ASD due to significant variations in language comprehension, social skills, and understanding of cause and effect, among other factors. It’s worth noting that a comprehensive understanding of FASD is vital for effective support. Without recognising FASD as a potential diagnosis, interventions may not fully address the spectrum of needs, potentially leading to inadequate support. Therefore, it’s essential for clinicians to consider the possibility of FASD alongside ADHD and ASD.

No! FASD impacts every community where alcohol is consumed. A recent study by Muggli, et al., (2016) found that educated Caucasian Australian women are more likely to drink alcohol when pregnant than other women in the community.

There are a lot of factors which influence how much impact prenatal alcohol exposure has on each individual child. Genetic factors play a big part in susceptibility to FASD, which is why some children who are exposed to alcohol appear unaffected while others can experience severe symptoms including FASD. As we can never predict the genetic predisposition which an unborn child has, specialists advise that the only safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy is none at all.

While we know that the risk is highest when large quantities of alcohol are consumed throughout pregnancy, research has found that even low levels of alcohol, or a single binge drinking episode, can result in severe harm to the unborn child. Binge drinking is classified as more than 4 standard drinks at one time, which is not much more than two pints of beer, two large glasses of wine, or one or two cocktails. Read the NHMRC Australian Guidelines for more information.  

You may wish to seek a second opinion from one of the FASD-informed specialists on the FASD Hub’s service directory, or you could share a brochure or online information for health professionals with your GP and ask them to learn more about FASD. NOFASD’s 30 evidence based FASD facts for health professionals may be useful.

NOFASD Australia also maintains an up-to-date directory of FASD-informed specialists and diagnostic clinics. Please call our National Helpline on 1800 860 613 (free call) or contact us for information on referral options.

No, unfortunately, FASD affects an individual throughout their life and they will need ongoing support. Alcohol is a teratogen (toxin) which interrupts or changes the normal development of a fetus, including the brain and other organs. This means that FASD is a permanent and lifelong disability.

People also ask:

  • What impact can FASD have on my child long-term?
  • Can FASD be cured or reversed?

FASD is a permanent condition which includes long-term impacts on the brain. There is no cure for FASD, but FASD-informed support can create huge improvements in quality of life for the individual and their family. You may wish to learn more about FASD by completing the free online Foundations in FASD course, and you can ask the professionals who work with your child to complete this course too.

Unfortunately, many school teachers don’t understand FASD well. Talk to your child’s teacher and other support people (such as school counsellors, teacher’s aides and the principal) about your child’s diagnosis. The Introduction to Teachers is a helpful document which provides a short overview of FASD and has sections in which you can fill in personalised information about your child’s strengths and needs.

If your child’s teacher is willing to learn more about FASD they can watch a webinar, view some short videos, access a range of resources for educators, complete an online course or request some face to face training from NOFASD. 

The only way to prevent FASD is to ensure there is no prenatal exposure to alcohol. If you could be pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, health professionals advise that no alcohol is safe. As approximately 50% of Australian women experience an unplanned pregnancy, if you choose to drink alcohol then using effective contraception is essential to prevent unintentional prenatal alcohol exposure.

Preventing FASD is not solely a woman’s responsibility – it’s up to all of us to raise awareness of the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure and to support our friends, family, and community members to stay alcohol free if they are, or could be, pregnant.

FASD affects the ability to think, learn, focus attention and control behaviour and emotions. Those affected may also be impulsive and often have low self-esteem and mental health problems. These impairments may also lead to problems at school, socially unacceptable behaviour, alcohol and other drug use, and early interactions with the justice system. See here for how FASD can impact people.

 You can also check out the Oregon Behaviour Consultation podcasts: “It’s a Brain Thing!”, to understand more about how FASD affects the brain.

Immediate information and supports are available by contacting the NOFASD helpline or email. The NOFASD website also contains a range of resources and further information to help individuals with FASD or their parents/carers in Australia.

 You can also learn more about FASD with NOFASD’s Australian Foundations in FASD online course.

 These websites also have helpful information and resources on FASD:

The effects of FASD vary considerably and it is sometimes referred to as the ‘invisible disability’ as it often goes undetected, whether it be overlooked, ignored, attributed to another known non-genetic condition or even simply blamed on ‘poor’ parenting or post birth environments. Sometimes FASD has been excluded by doctors due to lack of physical indicators. It Is important to note that 80% to 90% of people with FASD do not have the characteristic facial features.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was a diagnosis proposed by physicians in the US in 1973 to define neurological impairment associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol. FASD is the diagnostic term that has replaced FAS and is used in Australia, Canada & New Zealand since 2016.

There are many similarities between fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both disorders can affect brain function, development, and behaviour. While many of the effects of FASD and ADHD are similar, research suggests that the parts of the brain that are most affected differ between the two disorders.1 Because of this, FASD has been linked with more executive function issues than ADHD. Executive function includes things like self-control, reasoning, problem solving and planning. 3

People can have both FASD and ADHD at the same time. Studies have found that people with FASD are 10 times more likely to have ADHD.4 Other studies have found that about half of children with FASD also have ADHD.5 If someone has both FASD and ADHD, it is important that their care team considers both diagnoses when planning and implementing treatment. Treatment responses for people with ADHD and FASD are different from those who only have ADHD.6 For example, people with FASD and ADHD may react differently to stimulant medication than those who only have ADHD. 7

What are the Differences between FASD and ADHD, (Proof Alliance, 2021)
Read the full research paper from Proof Alliance here

FASD and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have several overlapping characteristics.
They are both neurodevelopmental disabilities that can affect brain function, development, behaviour, and social interactions.1 Not only do children with FASD often display some autistic-like characteristics, but children with high levels of prenatal alcohol exposure are at an increased risk of autism. One study found that as many as 72% of children with FASD also met criteria for autism.3 However, there are a number of differences between the two spectrum disorders.

What are the differences between FASD and autism, (Proof Alliance, 2021)

Find out more by reading this paper from Proof Alliance here

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