CanFASD: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Adversity


Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) have a heightened sensitivity to stress because of the brain-based impacts of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). There are also disproportionately high rates of chronic and complex adversity among people with FASD, which differentiates them from other disability groups. In order to address these cumulative vulnerabilities, we need to be particularly vigilant in supporting and protecting this population.


In Canada, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) affects an estimated 4% of the general population, making it more common than Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Tourette’s Syndrome combined. Individuals with FASD experience a range of brain- and body-based difficulties resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), including physical, cognitive, behavioural, and social-emotional challenges. PAE also predisposes individuals to experience heightened sensitivity to stress, from early infancy across the lifespan. This sensitivity is particularly problematic as individuals with FASD often also experience elevated rates of early and later life adversity. As a result, many people with FASD are at an increased risk for challenges across the lifespan, and the harmful impacts of chronic stress and adversity are likely to be magnified because of PAE. Therefore, individuals with FASD, their caregivers, and families, require supports to prevent and buffer against poor outcomes.

The goal of this issue paper is to review the existing literature on PAE/FASD, adversity, and stress, and to discuss the importance of addressing the compounding effects of these factors.

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 8.44.52 AM

Click here to download the issue paper from CanFASD.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.