Secondary Conditions Associated With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

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Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) are likely to develop a wide range of debilitating secondary conditions. These are conditions that may develop as a result of having FAS.

If your child has FAS, this list can be alarming. But these conditions are not inevitable. Many of them can be improved or prevented if the child and their family get the appropriate treatment. By knowing what conditions to be aware of, you may be able to get help as soon as possible for your child or for an adult with FAS.

According to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, there is a link between FAS and the following secondary conditions.

FAS and Mental Health Problems

Children with FAS children have an increased risk of developing cognitive disorders, mental health disorders, and psychological conditions.

  • Cognitive disorders
  • Psychiatric illnesses
  • Psychological dysfunction
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorders
  • Alcohol and drug dependence
  • Depression
  • Psychotic episodes

Some FAS children may also develop anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

FAS and Disrupted Education

A good education is important for all children. Because children with FAS have difficulty getting along with others, poor relationships with teachers and more likely to skip school, they are also more likely to be suspended, expelled, or quit school.

Even for the FAS students who remain in school, the experience is typically not an overall positive one. The school might not have the financial resources and the supporting staff might not have the training to adequately deal with the students' attention and behavioral problems.

Legal Troubles for FAS Teens

Statistics show that teens and young adults with FAS are much more likely to have contact with the police and the judicial system than those without this unfortunate diagnosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FAS children end up with legal problems because they have difficulty managing their anger and frustration, along with their problems of understanding the motives of others. Many U.S. police officers are not adequately trained to identify and, then, de-escalate a situation involving a person with FAS.

Additionally, adults who may not have the child's best interest at heart may take advantage of how easy it is to manipulate these children. Many FAS patients can end up taking part in illegal activities without realizing what they are doing.

FAS and Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Researchers report that individuals with FAS are more likely to exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior, such as inappropriate advances and inappropriate touching. FAS children who have also been a victim of violence are even more likely to exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior.

Alcohol and Drug Problems for FAS Patients

Some studies show that one-third of patients with FAS develop alcohol and drug problems. More than half of that one-third end up needing inpatient treatment for their substance abuse problems. Obviously, many children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are the children of alcoholics.

Daily Living and Employment Problems for FAS Patients

Because of their disabilities and the secondary conditions, adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder have difficulty in holding jobs and living independently as productive members of society.

FAS and Parenting Problems

FAS patients are more likely to become parents due to a lack of judgment and impulse control. Their alcohol dependence can also lead to unprotected sex and pregnancy, according to the CDC. This can lead to a second generation of children at risk for FAS.

Because adults with fetal alcohol syndrome are more likely to have grown up in unstable homes, become homeless, run away from home or experienced domestic violence, they have fewer opportunities to learn adequate or functional parenting skills.

Preventing Secondary Conditions

Not all children with fetal alcohol syndrome develop these secondary conditions. Early diagnosis and the implementation of what the CDC calls "protective factors" can lessen or prevent the development of these FAS secondary conditions.

If you are concerned about a child or adult with FAS, understanding the conditions they may face and how to reduce that risk can help you help them.

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