Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of abnormalities with a child caused by exposure of alcohol to a foetus.
Alcohol is known to be what is called a 'teratogen'. A teratogen is something from outside the body that can cause problems with the unborn baby.
When drunk, the alcohol gets into the mother's blood and crosses via the placenta (the connection between mother and baby) into the baby's blood. Here it can cause problems with the normal growth pattern of the baby.
It is not known how much alcohol is needed to cause problems with the baby, and so it is generally recommended that no alcohol be drunk during pregnancy, or at least that the amount of alcohol be very low. Having drunk a lot of alcohol during pregnancy does not mean that a baby will be born with FAS. Every woman is different and the effect that alcohol has on the baby can not be worked out easily before birth.
A child with FAS can struggle in many areas of life without adequate help. Other than their difference in appearance, there are other less obvious problems, mostly affecting the brain.
Children with FAS usually have slightly lower IQs than other children, with a greater reduction in those whose parents that drank more. They are cognitively delayed, lack concentration skills and this can lead to antisocial behaviour and aggressiveness.
As little as one drink a day can lead to an increase in aggressiveness in children aged six to seven. FAS can even lead to Attention Deficit Disorder when the children reach their teens.
FAS impacts cognitive development and may cause serious developmental delays and learning disabilities that can severely impact a child's academic progress. Mental retardation is often a factor with FAS, as are behaviour and aggression problems that can make peer relationships challenging.
Other than their difference in appearance, there are other less obvious problems, mostly affecting the brain. Children with FAS usually have slightly lower IQs than other children. FAS can even lead to Attention Deficit Disorder when the children reach their teens.
Children with FAS have problems with learning and attention and this can lead to antisocial behaviour and aggressiveness. As little as one drink a day can lead to an increase in aggressiveness in children aged six to seven.
Another behavioural abnormality of with children with FAS is social problems. "Specific difficulties included inability to respect personal boundaries, inappropriately affectionate, demanding of attention, bragging, stubborn, poor peer relations, and overly tactile in social interactions" (Phelps, 1995, p. 206).
Often, a child with this condition will have either an under-aroused or over-aroused central nervous system (CNS), so they have problems with integrating, organizing and processing sensory information and developing an appropriate social response. Hearing or touch may be overly-responsive to input while smell, taste or balance may be less sensitive than normal. These sensory problems may lead to emotional instability, hyperactivity, behavioral disorganization and learning problems.
It's possible to boost emotional and social development by helping the child to label feelings, showing the child how to express feelings, and helping to find safe ways to express anger and frustration. Reinforce all positive behavior, since it is very hard for these children to meet adult's expectations, so adapt the environment and your expectations.