Journal of Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience

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Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD): A beginner’s guide for mental health professionals

Author(s): Jerrod Brown*, Aaron Trnka, Diane Harr, Kimberly D Dodson, Hon Anthony P Wartnik and Kristy Donaldson

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a life course persistent disorder caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. This disorder, affecting millions of Americans, can feature a diverse range of impairments in cognitive (e.g., executive control), social (e.g., communication skills), and adaptive (e.g., problem-solving skills) functioning. These impairments are often accompanied by co-occurring mental illness (e.g., mood disorders), behavioral disorders (e.g., ADHD), substance use, traumatic brain injuries, and developmental disabilities. The presence of these co-occurring conditions creates significant challenges for mental health professionals in terms of screening, assessment, differential diagnosis, and treatment. The key to maximizing the effectiveness of care for clients requires treating each individual’s unique risks and needs in an integrated service delivery framework. Unfortunately, there is typically a lack of expertise in FASD among mental health professionals, which can only be resolved by the increased availability of advanced education and training programs on FASD. To increase awareness of these needs and FASD in general, this article provides general information on the definition and symptoms of FASD, the screening and assessment of FASD, adaptive functioning and memory-related considerations of FASD, and the treatment of FASD.


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