Autism or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Nottingham, UK

#21 Feb 1, 2009
My birth son has autism and my adopted daughter was diagnosed with autism shortly after she was placed with us. I always thought there was something else going on with her and she wasnt like my son at all-even though I know children with autism are not all the same, I still thought that autism was not exactly what she had-but close. Five years down the line she had been diagnosed with FAS and now I understand. The two diagnoses are very similar but apart from the facial abnormalities there are subtle differences between autism and FAS. Too many children are being mis-diagnosed with autism when there are so many other conditions so similar. It is almost that autism is the trendy diagnosis to hand out. But no body is attempting to help us now that we have the new diagnosis. She is still being helped because of her autism but the FAS is not being recognised separately. But then, as the conditions are so similar, maybe it doesnt need to be?

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#22 Feb 1, 2009
Unlike those who adopted, bio-parents know if they drank during pregnancy or not and FAS would had been ruled out as a cause for symptom's. There is nothing so trendy about an autism diagnosis, not when you're the parent of the child of which is displaying the symptom's.

As for a combo of autism and FAS, the interventions are probably close to the same however there is a certain amount of brain damage with FAS and prgresion may be less for those effected by that.
Zelda Chicago

Homer Glen, IL

#23 Feb 7, 2009
Payman wrote:
Alcohol has nothing to do with autism. It happens when and if mothers drink excessively during pregnancy. Autism happens most often to educated people. Enginneers are high above the mark. These people know much better not to drink and take better care of the children than regular Joe Black who has elementary school education and has neurotypicals.
Ignorance is a bliss, do not give up...
That is not true! I don't know why you think educated people don't drink, but a large percentage of alcoholics and drug addicts are highly educated. The only difference comes in the substances they use. As for FAS and Autism it is worth looking into, however this research is relatively new so I am sceptical.


#24 Apr 13, 2009
I do think there are many misdiagnosed children. Doctors are only human and can only go by what a parent tells them. My sister-in-law drank and took drugs for years before, during, and after pregnancy. Now my beautiful nephew, MISdiagnosed with autism has a long hard life ahead of him. Im not saying that the drugs and alcohol are definately the culprit... But I refuse to call him autistic
I do feel that these posts should be more for information and less arguing...thanks

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#25 Apr 13, 2009
FAS can look a lot like autism. Had the sister -in - law told the doctor about activities she did while pregnant, any doc shouldn't and wouldn't had diagnosed autism. If the doctor did knowing that info, that was wrong for the doc to do.

For those parents who know they didn't drink or do drugs while pregnant, and have no other logical explanation for the seen symptom's, it has to be something and it really wouldn't matter what they called it, as long as the child got the help they needed. Most times that help requires a diagnosis.

Gradyville, PA

#26 Apr 14, 2009
Drugs and Alcohol ARE the culprit. We all know it, she knows it. Calling him Autistic is a slap in the face to the children and families that actually have Autism.

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#27 Apr 14, 2009
It is a slap to those who actually do have children with autism but her struggles as a mom is probbaly close to the same as mine with a child who has autism. If this is happening a lot, it effects those autism rates every one so often speaks about. Your sister-in-law must truly be the queen of denial, or a large case of guilt since every one else knows yet she still fails to admit it.

Just because I'm curious, when your SIL says in front of you her child has autism, do you and family members speak up and say otherwise?


#28 Apr 14, 2009
Absolutely a slap in the face....I have said it since everyone found out about her drug & alcohol abuse,I confronted her, she denied it, blamed it on immunizations. We have not spoken since. I see my brother & nephew rarely. I dont believe she is clean. Someday I hope she does come clean, maybe then my nephew will have a chance...
friend wrote:
It is a slap to those who actually do have children with autism but her struggles as a mom is probbaly close to the same as mine with a child who has autism. If this is happening a lot, it effects those autism rates every one so often speaks about. Your sister-in-law must truly be the queen of denial, or a large case of guilt since every one else knows yet she still fails to admit it.
Just because I'm curious, when your SIL says in front of you her child has autism, do you and family members speak up and say otherwise?

Silver City, NM

#29 Apr 14, 2009
I am concerned because I know my daughter had a wild party night with lots of drinks before she knew she was pregnant. She may have been two to three weeks at the time. I understand that alcohol can have an affect at any time but I am curious about your 19-29 day comment and also about the folic acid and choline. Does folic acid and choline have a positive affect after the insult? By the way can anyone tell me who is qualified to diagnose FAS, md or psychologist or even a school psych? Do FAS children fall under the IDEA umbrella for eduation? and in what eligibility category?

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#30 Apr 14, 2009
Criteria for FAS require three specific facial findings, and hands can be different. I don't think there is a period prenatal that is ever safe from the potential effects of alcohol use. I also do not think there is enough evidence to support folic acid and choline will reverse the brain damage from FAS, otherwise that's what the procedure would be. Folic acid is suppose to help prevent unknown brain damage and spinal cord issues, but to help brain damage once it occurs is a different story. FAS is lifelong, just like autism is, however early treatment and intervention for both can greatly help.

No school psych really is suppose to diagnose any medical issue unless the district uses Regional Centers, and yes, FAS would qualify under IDEA since often learning delays and behavioral issues go along with it. Those kids could be under IDEA Other Health Impairment.

Silver City, NM

#31 Apr 14, 2009
Can you tell me the difference between medically diagnosed autism and educationally diagnosed autism and who should diagnose educationally diagnosed autism. I am concerned that a child diagnosed as educationally autistic will acquire a label that will spread through all aspects instead of just in the educational setting.

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#32 Apr 14, 2009
The difference between the two is educational is for educational purposes and often the criteria and tests are not the same as what it would be for a medical diagnosis. An educational placement also does not mean a child actually has autism, it means academically, that's where they would qualify but then so might other disorder's too like for instance FAS. That label may spread, if the child qualifies for an IEP, what's going on with that child wouldn't only be seen in school. For instance children with learning disabilities, you'd notice this outside of school. A child with ADHD, you'd notice this outside of the school too.

Only schools with a Regional Center can actually diagnose autism. Any where else, if a school claims it as a diagnosis, it's against the law. In MN, where I live, Pre K terms IEP's autism without a medical diagnosis and is quite controversial here, but MN allows it. This means and autism IEP can be created solely due to the school, schools are no expert on autism and it's a conflict of interest. Most any other state would term the IEP Developmentally Delayed unless there was a medical diagnosis. When my child was in Pre K, the school told me the IEP was a diagnosis, I didn't need a medical one and about did everything they could to talk me out of a medical diagnosis. You know why? When kindergarten came around and funding changes then, I'd had needed that medical diagnosis due to the lack medical diagnosis and denial of services they weren't going to provide.

What happens if the child only has that IEP based on assessments from the school, is the child often is at the mercy of the school for services and often those children end up with less. Without a medical diagnosis, there is no medical certainly the child has anything or no back up against the school the child's IEP is appropriate.

A label is nothing to be afraid of be it educational or medical, be it autism or something else, kids can still learn and improve and often kids can loose the medical diagnosis, but that wouldn't always mean autism is gone. It would mean that child learned coping skills and autism is better managed. But for some, that label does sort of stick. I'm not ashamed to tell any one my child has autism, my kid would tell you he has it. We stood at ToysRUs as the asked for donations for autism the other day. My kid thought all that money was just for him :)

Silver City, NM

#33 Apr 15, 2009
Thank you, sounds like you have a great kiddo. I have worked with a lot of autistic kids but it still bothers me that school can diagnose what is essentially a medical condition. It seems often that schools and medical community need to work together but it certainly does not happen in my area.

Since: Jan 07

Location hidden

#34 Apr 15, 2009
IDEA really doesn't allow for educational and medical to combine. Schools only have to acknowledge recommendations of medical but they can not deny a medical diagnosis.

Some kids who do have a medical diagnosis wont qualify for the criteria for special ed, and end up with a 504. This is due to the criteria of each, school and medical, being different. Some kids who are deemed higher functioning often don't even have academic needs.

Thanks about my kiddo. He's a cool kid who has worked extremely hard to be where he is today. I may have drove him to his therapies, but he did all the work once there.

St. John's, Canada

#35 Jun 5, 2009
I am the step-mother to a child that has a dual diagnosis of FAS and Autism. The FAS diagnosis came first as the knowledge of how much the mother drank during pregnancy was available - quite a bit I might add! This knowledge, along with the out of control behaviours, brought us to a world renowned expert on FASD. He examined and fully diagnosed her with FAS. Now - the next thing was to try to find help for this child. NOTHING! The route was through the health care system (Canada) in which she was diagnosed with Autism. The symptoms are very similar. She received Autistic therapies which made a HUGE difference in her behaviour and speech issues (no lack of speech but there was a mix up of syntax, etc.) Some of the therapies didn't help her or were not applicable but we just altered the programs to fit her needs. It is true brain damage with FAS and preventable but the damage displays itself similarly to Autistic symptoms. We willingly took the Autistic diagnosis as it enabled therapies. But we make a point of letting those who need to know (teachers, caregivers, etc.) that she is FAS showing Autistic like symptoms. One does not cause the other - it causes similar symptoms. So everyone needs to chill and relax and not take it personal and help the child.

Spring, TX

#36 Jun 19, 2009
Kathy Page wrote:
Thank you so much for your comment. I think the next mountain for us to climb (in the neurodevelopmental field) is the one that examines the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure--coolly and dispassionately--at the same time as we honor the experiences of parents who really don't want to think about connecting prenatal alcohol with their kids' problems.
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I wanted to let you know that I am the adoptive mother of a foster child,who had a parent, that exposed him to drugs and possibly alcohol abuse. He started exhibiting developmental delays and autismic symptoms, and I immediately expected Aspergers. Howerver; upon doing research, and finding that his adoption agency recommended an evaluation of ASD, I find that he may have symptoms of both,and that they are definitely linked; if not virtually the same. There is just the physical attribute difference, that makes all the difference. I am awaiting currently the correct diagnosis of which the Dr. thinks that it may be. However;the treatments are very IEP, cognitive and speech therapy, and possibly ADHD medicine. I believe that there should be a re-evaluation of the two conditions; especially stating that FAS can be/or atleast may be linked to (or specifcally causes) ASD. Hopefully, there will be a better defined explanation for us parents in the future.
Betty Lou Benson

Red Deer, Canada

#37 Jul 8, 2009
Jen wrote:
<quoted text>
Not even close. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurs in about two out of one thousand births. They have a distinctive pattern of unusual facial characteristics(flattened nose, underdeveloped upper lip and widely spaced eyes) these are three common physical characteristics, poor growth and central nervous system problems. Autism is a condition characterized by a range of severe cognitive deficits and unresponsiveness to other people. The autisitc spectrum is huge. This information was obtained from Child Development, It's Nature and It's Course, which is a child psychology text.
You are very misinformed about FASD Jen. Firstly - less than 10% of individuals affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol have the dismorphed facial characteristics. Most individuals affected by FASD have no physical characteristics at all!
Betty Lou Benson

Red Deer, Canada

#38 Jul 8, 2009
You are very misinformed Jen about FASD. Firstly the percentage is far higher than 2 out of 1000, more like 2 out of 100. Also, less than 10% of individuals with FASD are characterized by the dismorphed facial features. The majority of individuals affected by being exposed prenatally to alcohol have no different facial characteristics.
sad dad

New Zealand

#39 Dec 20, 2009
I have a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism His mother and i are no longer togerther not for the least part because she chose to drink a bottle of wine per day during the first and last three months of pregnancy and during three months of breast feeding.
I have raised concearns with doctors who seem to want to sweep the whole thing into the autism pile
I swear to god this happens

Chilliwack, Canada

#40 Apr 6, 2010
Thank you for making these fantastic points. No article has said that alcohol is the only cause for autism, certainly there are several which may explain the broad spectrum of effects. However, for those who do not know enough about FASD fail to realize there is also a huge range of effects, most do not have mental retardation and the classic facial features of which many people have not yet broken their stereotypes. Most parents who have a child with FASD are not alcoholics, social drinking, unplanned pregnancies and FASD go hand in hand. Open your minds, look at some better research and you'll see that there are in fact a lot similarities between FASD and Autism - just not in all cases.

HOWEVER, to the below posting - PLEASE do not put out the misinformation that choline or anything else is an answer to the dangers of prenatal alcohol exposure. It is nowhere close to guaranteeing prevention of the damaging effects, and it is quite naive to say that adding it to alcohol will make it ok to drink in pregnancy. It is misinformation that people will latch on to and create problems down the road.
ASDFASD wrote:
Actually you are probably quite accurate. At the very least we should be examining the relationship between alcohol and ASD. I am a parent who has a child with both diagnoses, and have been a professional in the field for 40 years.Information is not casting stones, it is increasing awareness.
No known amount of alcohol is safe. Even a single dose of alcohol can create cellular level problems.(Onley) The majority of women in the US drink before they know they are pregnant. The features of FAS are caused in the 19-29th day of gestation. Most children who are effected do not have the features of FAS.Alcohol does cause brain damage.
Lab studies show that rats exposed to alcohol will have offspring with lower rates of vocalization, perseveration, executive functioning problems,and other issues similar to ASD. Metabolic problems are common in FASD and may be why some fetuses have susceptibility and later reactions to immunizations.
There is little research on the relationship but anyone working with both populations is well aware that there is a high rate of comorbidity. The American Academy of pediatrics lists FAS as a common comorbid condition to ASD.10-20% of the students I evaluate for ASD every year are adopted and known or suspected of being prenatally exposed. We never hear of the biological children. The reason that this is important is that there are some possible treatments such as choline. Choline may stop and repair damage during fetal development caused by alcohol. Canada is considering a law that will force alcohol distributors to put choline and folic acid in all alcohol. Stigma is a big issue for those of us who are parenting children who have FASD.
You don't have to be an alcoholic or even have a serious drinking problem to cause damage to a fetus. You just need to have a drink at the wrong time. Surely this is not information that alcohol lobbies want known.
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