By Lauren Thayer from In The Cloud Copy
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASDs are a group of conditions that can affect a child both physically as well as behaviorally. These conditions are caused when a mother drinks too much alcohol during her pregnancy with the child. A child usually has a combination of the commonly seen problems that are often misdiagnosed by providers. The defects that are seen as a results of fetal alcohol syndrome are unfortunately not reversible.
Common Signs and Symptoms of FASDs
The signs and symptoms of FASDs range from physical defects to cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Some of the physical defects that are often seen include distinctive facial features such as a short, upturned nose, small eyes, and a thin upper lip. Other commonly seen physical defects include slow physical growth both prior to and after birth, small head circumference and brain size, heart defects, bone and kidney problems, and vision and hearing difficulties.
Children diagnosed with FASDs may also exhibit poor coordination and balance, poor memory, difficulty reasoning and problem-solving, rapid mood changes, difficulty in school, poor social skills, poor judgment skills, impulse control issues, and many more social and behavioral issues.
Children are often misdiagnosed for a variety of reasons, most commonly, they either do not know the maternal history or the parents are not forthcoming with information about this history, making diagnosis difficult.
Resources for Healthcare Providers
Dr. Omar Rhaman from the University of Nebraska Medical Center is part of a group of physicians and healthcare providers that have created a manual for others to use in the aid of recognizing and diagnosing FASDs.
Dr. Rhaman and his colleagues consult and provide training workshops on FASD worldwide as consultants for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). Through their experience in various countries, they have created a 55-page handbook that features various sections ranging from prenatal exposure, dysmorphology, neuropsychology, diagnosis processes, and learning modules based on actual cases.
This handbook is intended to help providers worldwide in diagnosis and treatment of FASD since this is such a misdiagnosed condition in children.
The handbook, currently available in English but soon to be translated into Spanish, is a freely available resource to everyone that can be found on the PAHO/WHO website.
The team is looking at the creation of additional resources to go along with this handbook that would be aimed more at parents and teachers of children affected to some degree by FASDs.
Further, the team is taking note of and exploring how COVID-19 will affect FASD prevalence as it has been proven that alcohol consumption has increased during COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions.
Outcomes for FASDs
Dr. Rhaman and his colleagues note the difficulties that children with FASDs will face throughout their entire lives. These conditions affect 2 to 5 percent of the US population alone. Patients with FASDs will struggle with lifelong learning and behavioral problems. Their hope is that with this handbook, diagnosis rates will increase and patients can be given the help and support they need from an early age, hopefully leading to better long-term outcomes.
Check out the workbook here.
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