The Demographic and Neurocognitive Profile of Clients diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in PATCHES Paediatrics clinics across Western Australia and the Northern Territory



Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnosis relating to neurocognitive impairments associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. A key aspect of improving FASD diagnostic processes and management is understanding the demographic and neurocognitive profile of those living with FASD. The aim of this study was to describe the demographic and neurocognitive profile of the first 199 individuals diagnosed with FASD in PATCHES Paediatrics clinics.


A retrospective cross‐sectional descriptive study design was conducted with individuals diagnosed with FASD between 2013 and 2018 through a multidisciplinary team according to the Australian FASD Diagnostic Guidelines.


Participants were primarily male 133 (66.8%) and Aboriginal Australian 147 (73.9%), aged 2 to 31 (mean 10.5), with 94 (47.3%) from remote or very remote parts of Western Australia.

Participants came from low 119 (59.8%), medium 48 (24.1%) and high 32 (16.1%) socioeconomic (SE) backgrounds. Low SE background was found to be a predictor of number of sentinel facial features (Wald χ2 (1) = 4.03, p < .05). Most received a diagnosis of FASD with less than 3 sentinel features 165 (82.9%).

Participants either had 6 or more 46 (23.1%), 5 44 (22.1%), 4 55 (27.6%) or 3 (27.1%) neurodevelopmental domains impaired. Executive functioning was the most commonly impaired neurodevelopmental domain 158 (79.4%), and 31 (61%) reported sleep disturbance. ADHD was the most observed comorbid condition (41.7%).


This study improves our current understanding of neurocognitive and demographic profiles in individuals with FASD that have been clinically referred for diagnosis within Western Australia and the Northern Territory; and highlights the importance of prevention and early assessment/diagnosis as well as guidance regarding more targeted interventions. FASD affects individuals from all cultural and SE backgrounds. Individuals from middle to higher SE groups are at risk of FASD with prevention efforts needing to target these sectors of society. Suggestions for future research directions are also provided.

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