We met our children in January 2003, at the time they were 5 years, and 1 year old. We were excited to be adopting siblings and both were beautiful healthy children. Even our adoption worker took a close look at the children and commented on the fact neither appeared to have any of the signs for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS.
FAS is the medical diagnosis for symptoms of prenatal alcohol exposure. The criteria for FAS are specific and represent the most extreme end of a continuum of effects on unborn children. We reviewed and understood what signs to look for because of our adoption training classes we had a clear understanding and knew it was a risk. Our children didn’t appear to have any sign of fetal alcohol syndrome.
In order for a full diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to be made, certain clear criteria must be met in three areas:
1) Small Size:
- Low birth weight,
- Small length/height.
- Small head circumference.
- Evidence of growth retardation such as decelerating weight over time not because of nutrition problems.
- Disproportional low weight for height.
2) Evidence of central nervous system involvement. such as brain differences that affect:
- Learning, average IQ for a person with full FAS is about 70 with a range of 20-130
- Activity levels,
- Cognitive learning issues,
- Behavioral and social delays and abnormalities.
3) Facial anomalies (changes) and physical signs, including:
- Short alpebral fissures, such as a flat upper lip, flattened philtrum.
- Abnormalities in the premaxillary area or flattened mid face.
- Small eye openings.
- Small jaw.
- Neurological, such as impaired fine motor skills, neurosensory hearing loss, poor tandem gait, poor eye-hand coordination.
When we brought our children home with us, we saw no reason to even suspect they were Alcohol exposed. We knew there were some positive results for some other street drugs, which ironically appear to be far less life long damaging as alcohol is. Alcohol is a very small molecule and kills cells.
Research finds the brain is the most sensitive to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. The effects depend on when the exposure happens during the pregnancy. People with FAS are affected in different ways, not all alcoholics have children with FAS but some social drinkers do.
Fetal alcohol exposure has a wide range of effects beyond those seen with FAS. A person without full FAS is much more difficult to identify, because they may have none of the physical effects. Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) includes a much larger number of people, estimates vary between 160-350 out of 1000 people may have Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder.
I have been distracted from writing for the past several months. Recently my daughter was diagnosed with Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder and I am starting to understand.
My Next Blog on this Topic will Be:
The One Reason to Never-Ever Have Even 1 Drink While Pregnant!