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The Right Connection - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Click on each title below to see detailed information.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are the leading cause of intellectual disabilities and preventable birth defects caused by the consumption of alcohol by the biological mother during pregnancy.
 FASD is not a diagnostic term. It is an umbrella describing a range of effects, including physical, cognitive, behavioral, neuro-developmental, and social deficits, with possible life-long implications.
On the spectrum is the medical diagnosis Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASDs) which is usually made by a dysmorphologist, clinical geneticist, or developmental pediatrician, and requires documentation of all of the following:
1.  Three facial abnormalities:
     a.  a smooth philtrum (the midline groove in the upper lip that runs from the top of the  lip to the nose),
     b. a thin vermillion (the exposed pink or reddish margin of a lip), and
     c. small palpebral fissures (the opening for the eyes between the eyelids)
2.  Growth deficits
3.  Central Nervous System abnormality (causing learning and behavioral difficulties.)
For a color guide to FASDs facial feature diagnosis visit:
FASDs are often a hidden or invisible disability. The majority of persons living with an FASD do not meet the physical criteria (growth deficits and facial features) for a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
 The Institute of Medicine has identified three other diagnoses:
  • Partial FAS: facial anomalies and other symptoms without all the signs of FAS
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND): Central Nervous System (CNS) defects and behavior problems or cognitive deficits (e.g., speech delays, hyperactivity)
  • Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD): damage to organs, bones, or muscles

Additionally, the neurodevelopmental disorders associated with prenatal alcohol exposure are described in the DSM 5 under code 315.8, “Other NeurodevelopmentalDisorders, Other Specified Neurodevelopmental Disorder.”(p. 86)

For more information about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, visit the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s (NOFAS) website at www.nofas.org and the MCFARES (Michigan Coalition on Fetal Alcohol Resources Education and Support) website at www.mcfares.org.


Information of FASD is available at:



www.fasdcenter.samhsa.gov, click on the “Education/Training tab on the right, then scroll down the "FASD - The Basics" link. 





www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Early_On_Service_Coordinator_Guide_for_FASD_8-2011_362477_7.pdf (For 0-3)


There are also many Facebook support groups that are closed or are secret groups. Families interested in those group may contact charisse@mcfares.org for more information.

A pre-screen assessment may be completed before making an appointment at a Diagnostic Center (listed below).

The FAS Pre-screen form may be completed online at:


For more information, contact CARE of SE Michigan, (586) 541-2273.

Diagnostic Centers (called Centers of Excellence) identify neurological and mental health problems/concerns:  For a listing of clinics, go to:


An annual workshop for parents and/or professionals, (“TRIUMPH Through the Challenges of FASD”), caring for a child with an FASD or other brain-based disabilities, examines characteristics of FASD, provides strategies for addressing a child’s inappropriate behavior, explores coping skills for parents, and much more. Available from CARE of SE Michigan, (586) 541-2273 or www.careofsem.com.

Parent support group for parents/guardians of a child with FASD is available through MCFARES.  For more information call (586) 329-6722 or charisse@mcfares.org

Online parent support group for parents/guardians of a child with FASD is available through MCFARES:  https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/FaSAFASD/info.

Monthly support group for parents of youth with an FASD.  For more information contact:  charisse@mcfares.org.

A legal document that allows for classroom accommodations (e.g., quiet environment for testing, extra time to do homework, etc.) is available from local school districts, usually from a School Counselor or Principal. For assistance in navigating the process for obtaining this document for children with FASD, contact the Michigan Alliance for Families, (248) 834-4597, www.michiganallianceforfamilies.org.

Trained volunteer parents to advocate for the family during Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meetings are available from MCFARES.  For more information, call (586) 329-6722 or charisse@mcfares.org.

Information, support, and resources for families is available from the Michigan Coalition for Fetal Alcohol Resource Education and Support (MCFARES) Coalition, (586) 329-6722 or go to www.mcfares.org.