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Treating Individuals Affected with FASD
Receiving a formal FASD diagnosis and having a firm understanding of that diagnosis can help families set realistic expectations and facilitate appropriate treatment, intervention and planning.
It is important to recognize the value of early home intervention and school intervention beginning at age 5. Children diagnosed with FAS or those affected by FASD often come from unstable families and may be at greater risk for physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Perhaps as many as 85 percent of children with FAS are being raised not by their birth parents, but by grandparents or other relatives, foster parents or adoptive parents. Many of these children have life-long learning and behavioral problems caused by organic brain damage. This is extremely stressful and can be overwhelming for any parent or caregiver. These children may require a range of specialized social, educational and legal services in addition to medical services in neurology or other specialties.
Primary care providers can help parents or children by:
- Helping parents or caregivers acknowledge and understand the reality of their child’s situation
- Being nonjudgmental, building an alliance with caregivers and nurturing both their strengths and the strengths of the affected child
- Staying abreast of treatment research in related areas and adopt, or adapt, appropriate strategies
- Refer the child to specialized medical services, and refer both the child and family to community support services as needed
- Follow up all referrals and coordinate care as needed.
As the 2004 CDC Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis correctly states, “Diagnosis is never an endpoint for any individual with a developmental disability and his or her family.” Understanding a diagnosis can help families set realistic expectations and facilitate appropriate treatment, intervention, and planning. Because the life skills affected by prenatal alcohol exposure vary greatly, the correct intervention is unique for each individual with FAS and their family.
The CDC has identified specific services helpful to individuals with FAS that are age-specific. The most effective interventions are those that are geared towards an individual’s developmental level.