LANSING, Mich. - To help promote International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day on Sept. 9, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is announcing the release of 'Understanding FASD and Its Impact on Children and Youth,' a video that explores the basics of FASD and the behavior of children and youth with FASD. This video is for parents of a child with a diagnosed or suspected FASD and professionals who work with families and their children with a diagnosed or suspected FASD.
The Sept. 9 date was chosen to recognize this day as it represents nine months of an alcohol-free pregnancy. Research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders indicates 1 in 20 children are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD is twice as prevalent in children as autism spectrum disorder and Down's Syndrome. Alcohol is the most damaging substance of abuse compared with use of marijuana, methamphetamine, opioids and heroin during pregnancy.
FASD is an umbrella term used to describe preventable birth defects and intellectual and/or developmental disabilities resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. These conditions can range from mild to severe and affect each person differently. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the most severe of the FASD spectrum. People with FAS can manifest physical features, such as a small head size, low birth weight or smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, but some may not present these physical features. Common behavioral and intellectual disabilities of people with FASDs include:
• Difficulty with learning or memory
• Hyperactive behavior
• Difficulty with attention
• Speech or language delays
• Poor reasoning and judgement skills
"It's important to note that we offer resources for both expectant moms and families with children and youth who may be adversely affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. "Services provided in the public mental health system for children affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and their families are tailored to meet the needs of this unique population. Our efforts to help children with FASD also include training to improve children's mental health providers' understanding of FASD and its impact on a child and their family."
FASDs are completely preventable by abstaining from alcohol while pregnant and are in fact the only preventable form of intellectual disability. There is no scientific evidence that confirms any amount of alcohol that will not affect the developing fetus. In 2019, an estimated 58.1 percent of women of reproductive age in Michigan, aged 18-44 years, reported one or more drinks of alcohol during the last 30 days and 20.2 percent reported binge drinking four or more drinks of alcohol on any one occasion during the last 30 days, according to the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey.
The Division of Mental Health Services to Children and Families in the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration within MDHHS has provided statewide training on basic information about FASD since 2017. This training has been provided to community mental health service programs (CMHSPS) and community partners. Additionally, select CMHSPS are trained and implement practices that focus on children and youth with FASD and their families.
To learn more about trainings, click here.
Visit Mcfares.org for family support and other resources.