FASD Characteristics

Alcohol and Brain Development

Although alcohol can affect the development of all cells and organs, the brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol exposure.

As a result, children and adults with FASD often experience difficulties in dealing with information. They may find it hard to translate hearing into doing, thinking into saying, reading into speaking or feeling into words.

They may also have difficulty in applying specific learning to new experiences or situations and in perceiving similarities and differences. This means they may not be able to see patterns, predict events or make judgments.

Characteristics and Physical Effects

We cannot see the neurological effects of FASD, but there are a number of invisible characteristics and many possible physical effects.

Invisible characteristics Physical effects
  • attention and memory deficits
  • hyperactivity
  • difficulty with abstract concepts (eg maths, time and money)
  • confused social skills
  • poor problem solving skills
  • difficulty learning from consequences
  • poor judgement
  • immature 
  • poor impulse control
  • smaller head circumference
  • heart problems
  • limb damage
  • kidney damage
  • damage to the structure of the brain
  • eye problems
  • hearing problems
  • specific facial characteristics, including a flat nasal bridge, upturned nose, thin upper lip and smooth philtrum (the vertical groove between the upper lip and nose)

Without the appropriate support, people with FASD have a high risk of developing secondary disabilities such as psychiatric issues, disrupted school experience and alcohol and drug problems.

Understanding the FASD Thought Process

Non-FASD thought process FASD thought process
  • Orderly, organised and sequential
Inconsistent growth, undergrowth, disorganised, gaps and clusters.
  • Many opportunities for links and interconnections.
Clusters can appear as areas of strength e.g. in art, music, etc.