This site introduces the neurobehavioural difficulties that may appear throughout the lifespan of individuals with FASD. It is important to recognize that, being a spectrum disorder, FASD can look different for different individuals. Not all individuals with FASD will experience all of the issues presented here. However, this site summarizes the common neurobehavioural features of FASD found in current research. The problems presented on this site are not necessarily gender-specific.
Children with FASD often show difficulty focusing, maintaining, organizing, and shifting their attention. Some researchers have shown that auditory attention is slightly better on average than visual attention, but there is still much to be learned in this area. Children who are too young to realize that they are becoming overwhelmed or overstimulated by their surroundings will need support and positive redirection to calm down. Caregivers find that minimizing stimulus will help regulate outbursts of energy.
Researchers working with adolescents and adults with FASD have also identified attention problems as a common challenge for this group. As with other areas of functioning attention problems and hyperactivity experienced by adolescents and adults may impact their ability to function effectively in light of demands for increasing autonomy and independence. As such seeking ways to continue to ensure supports that help with organization, attention span, and managing restlessness, or meeting other related behavioural needs, will help these individuals best access their strengths.
ADHD can co-occur with an FASD diagnosis or symptoms of FASD can mimic those of ADHD but stem from prenatal exposure to alcohol. Misdiagnosis of ADHD in children with FASD can occur due to misinterpretations of a child’s behaviour and developmental expectations.
Children prenatally exposed to alcohol and children with ADHD may both experience challenges with:
- Investing, organizing and maintaining attention
- Being impulsive
- Similar behaviours (based on parent report).
- Shifting old concepts to new situations
- Social and communication skills
- Problems with complex movements and balance
These two groups of children may also experience different challenges. In particular, children with FASD may experience greater difficulty with:
- Tasks involving high mental demand: holding information in their minds while manipulating that information; shifting their attention from one thing to another. (Whereas children with ADHD have more difficulty focusing their attention on a task and sustaining their attention)
- Transferring verbal information into memory (whereas children with ADHD have more trouble remembering already learned verbal information)
- Problem solving
- coordinating movements smoothly
- Adaptive functions (i.e. social skills, daily living skills)
- Lower IQ
- When given a letter of the alphabet, children with FASD had a harder time producing as many words as they can beginning with that letter in a set time span.
- Shifting attention between multiple focus points