THE MYTH OF FAS – By Barry Stanley

I am a retired physician who specialized in FASD; the parent of a son, 37, who has FASD.
Following is my topic.


It is a myth that FAS is the most severe/worst form of FASD.
The most that can be said is that some with FAS may be the most neurologically affected [27%].

These are the facts

1- only 10%-15% of those diagnosed with FASD will have the facial features [FAS]

2- only approximately 27% of individuals with the facial features [FAS] will have an I.Q. below 70.

3- of the remaining 73% of those with the facial features [FAS] the range of I.Q. will vary from the low to high average.

4- of those who do not have the facial features [ARND] 9% will have an I.Q. below 70.

5- all those diagnosed FASD [FAS and ARND] will have degrees and combinations of impairment of the various domains of brain function, as demonstrated in the neurological assessments used in the process of the diagnosis.

6- While the I.Q. is a measure of the individual’s overall intellect it is not a measure of the individual’s ability to function in society; for this all domains of brain function need to be assessed separately. In particular, Executive and Adaptive Functioning appear to be universally impaired in FASD [FAS and ARND], no matter the level of I.Q.

7-The degree of functional impairment can only be assessed by neuropsychological testing, not be the presence or absence of facial features.

The myth that FAS is the most severe form of FASD causes confusion and erroneous conclusions.
It is not just a matter of semantics. In a recent appeal case the expert witness for the crown stated that the appellant was not severely affected since he did not have the facial features.

Streissguth A.P. The Occurrence of Secondary Disabilities in Clients with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome [FAS] and Fetal Alcohol Effects [FAE]. Final Report. University of Washington School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences. 1996.

Barry Stanley
22nd January,2015

One comment

  1. An example of a chaotic system is the brain [a complex system ] that was exposed to the ubiquitous effects of prenatal alcohol.
    The human brain is the most complex system known [on earth]. The developing brain that is exposed to prenatal alcohol becomes a complex chaotic system. Because of the interactive complexity of the brain there is no part of the developing brain that is not affected by prenatal alcohol exposure, either directly or indirectly. It is recognized that the affect of prenatal alcohol on the developing brain varies according to the amount consumed, the fetal level of the alcohol, the length of time of the exposure, the speed with which the alcohol is consumed, the time and frequency that the alcohol is consumed in the pregnancy, the nature and health of the placenta, the state of nutrition of the mother, the age of the mother and the epigenetic affect of alcohol on the sperm and oocyte. These many factors, together with the complexity of the developing brain, ensure that no two affected individuals will be identical in their disabilities.
    Barry Stanley

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