Birth mum, Lisa, drank heavily for the first five months of her pregnancy, because of difficulties in her life at the time. From the beginning, she realised her son, James, was ‘different’.
James was born underweight at 4lbs 11oz. At school, James consistently underachieved in most areas, especially maths. It was noted that he couldn’t always apply his knowledge to problem solving. There were days when he was unable to do something he had previously learned. He was always losing and forgetting things and resolutely refused to do any homework. Mornings were a nightmare as he had no awareness of time and of the necessity to get washed and dressed for school.
As James got older, his behaviour became increasingly difficult to cope with and eventually, at the age of 14, James went into foster care. He returned home in his late teens and so began the search to find out what was causing James’ difficulties.
Following months of online research of symptoms similar to those that her son was showing, Lisa found out that the potential cause was alcohol consumption during pregnancy and that James was suffering from FAS. Lisa contacted her local GP and even though he was sympathetic he had no knowledge of FAS. Also James’ psychiatrist was adamant that James had a cannabis addiction problem and gave him a label of dissocial personality disorder.
It was only after agreeing to take part in a television documentary about Foetal Alcohol Syndrome that Lisa was put in touch with Dr Raja Mukherjee, the UK’s leading expert in the field and James got a formal diagnosis. It turned out that James had the facial features common with FAS and all the behaviours of FASD.
The majority of children with FASD are not with their birth families. They get adopted or fostered. GPs should record alcohol information in the family history. These records will help the child in school and services later in life.