Dr. Stephen Greenspan Enshrined in the FASD Hall of Fame

By Andrea Dressel

For his groundbreaking and dedicated work in support of individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), NOFAS inducts Stephen Greenspan into the Tom and Linda Daschle FASD Hall of Fame.

Dr. Greenspan has researched and written extensively on personal competence, social intelligence, adaptive functioning, parenting and discipline, and the problem of gullibility. He has explored many of these concepts in the context of developmental disabilities, specifically Autism and FASD. One of his most significant contributions is attempting to broaden the view of neurodevelopmental disorders to become more holistic, so that IQ is not the only point of reference for a diagnosis. With FASD in particular, he points out that affected individuals are mainly impaired by a lack of social and practical judgment, whereas outdated standards typically make their IQs—often above the cut-off—the sole determination of their eligibility for services.

In his co-authored paper “FASD and the Concept of ‘Intellectual Disability Equivalence’”, he states: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a logical candidate for such an accommodation as (a) it (like ID) involves brain impairment, (b) people with FASD have adaptive deficits and support needs that are identical to those with ID, and (c) while many people with FASD do qualify as having ID, the majority do not, because full-scale IQ scores are typically too high. (241)

His original and insightful ideas have led him to be the most frequently cited authority in the Intellectual Disability section of the DSM-5. Additionally, professionals in many fields trust his conclusions due to his credentials and professional history.

In addition, Dr. Greenspan has defended individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities—prompting exemption from the death penalty in several cases—by delivering expert testimony. This includes testifying last year in the Supreme Court case Moore v. Texas, where he successfully demonstrated that the defendant had a disability and therefore should not be executed.

Another important contribution Dr. Greenspan has made to the field of FASD is his paper “Why People with FASD Fall for Manipulative Ploys: Ethical Limits of Interrogators’ Use of Lies”, where he applies his research on gullibility and manipulation to situations where individuals with FASD get in legal trouble. In an educational YouTube video featuring Dr. Greenspan recorded by NOFAS, he states, “I think…the core deficit that causes people with FASD to get in all kinds of trouble includes not being able to predict the perspective of someone that is trying to manipulate them… that’s an illustration of not understanding how to present yourself in a light that is hopefully not going to result in prosecution.”

Dr. Greenspan strives to educate and inform judges on FASD and its implications in legal situations. In the same educational video, he concludes by saying, “I think that the more that judges and lawyers know about FASD, and are able to link it up with particular criminal types of behaviors, the more likely it is that justice will be the outcome.” (Also watch Dr. Greenspan’s remarks at a NOFAS press conference.)

Attorney Billy Edwards, Chair of the NOFAS Justice Task Force, who knows Dr. Greenspan and his work very well and has authored papers with him, is thrilled that NOFAS is honoring Dr. Greenspan, saying it is well-deserved. He adds, “Dr. Stephen Greenspan has done so much in the FASD community to help so many attorneys, like myself, better understand the importance between adaptive behavior skills and the IQ level of their client.”

Dr. Greenspan received his doctorate from the University of Rochester in Developmental Psychology, and then received a postdoctoral certificate from UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute in Developmental Disabilities. His academic career has led him to teach and conduct research at various highly-respected institutions, such as Vanderbilt University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Colorado.

NOFAS expresses its deepest gratitude to Dr. Greenspan and on behalf of its affiliates and partners, welcomes him to the Hall of Fame.