Get to know FASD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a preventable, lifelong disability resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol that has no cure. Addressing FASD is a complex, multidimensional social and public health issue.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may cause irreversable brain damage to an unborn child. No alcohol is best.

FASD is the umbrella term used to describe a range of disabilities that may include physical birth defects and health problems including developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory problems, as well as difficulties in communicating feelings and understanding consequences.

One of every 100 babies born in Canada is affected by FASD.

FASD is a lifelong disability. A child with FASD grows up to be an adult with FASD.

Individuals with FASD may require extensive support and services related to health, mental health, social services, education and training, justice, addictions, and family supports throughout their lives.

Due to a gap in understanding communication, internal structure of time and consequences:

  • FASD can often lead to disrupted school experiences. 

  • Children who have an alcohol-related birth defect have difficulty learning from past experience. This makes their behaviour unpredictable and can also make them vulnerable to high risk behaviours and situations.

  • Research has shown a significant number of individuals in the criminal justice system have been pre-natally exposed to alcohol.

  • Information should be communicated in a different way to a person that is living with FASD to help them have a better learning experience. For instance, joking or teasing an individual with FASD can often lead to misunderstanding and hurt feelings. Care should be used when using humour.

  • A person with FASD may not be able to foresee a potential risk or consequence, they may see nothing. Creating an established routine will help an individual create structure for their day and better understand what to do through the course of the a day and eliminate potential surprises.

  • There may be difficulty with sensory overload and self-regulation, leading to uncontrolled emotional outbursts.

The affects of FASD may become more pronounced in an individual's life into adulthood.  There may be an increase in obstacles that creates difficulties from holding a steady job to drug and alcohol abuse through to crime and homelessness. A key part of the transitioning stage from childhood to adulthood for an individual with FASD is to help them accept and understand the need for supportive and assisted living.

To learn more about FASD, visit or see the FASD Strategies Not Solutions handbook.
Created: 2013-04-01
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