Children/Adolescents > Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Call to Action on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

The OMHSAS Bureau of Children’s Behavioral Services recently released a Call to Action, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Awareness, Identification and Intervention for Children in Pennsylvania.”

From the introduction to the document:

In 2009, in support of the Department of Health’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Action Plan (2008), the OMHSAS Bureau of Children’s Behavioral Health Services established a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Workgroup to address the behavioral health needs of children and their families affected by an FASD. This Call to Action document reflects the research, discussion and deliberations of local, national and international researchers and clinicians, and the input of families. The document provides recommendations to improve FASD awareness, identification, and intervention in Pennsylvania, with the goal of promoting systems of care to address this challenging problem.

Given that FASD is an invisible disability and therefore is frequently overlooked, affected children may be misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and subject to mismanagement. Typically, children with an FASD want to do well but are limited by cognitive and neurologically based factors beyond their control. When the disorder is recognized and the child and family receive appropriate services and supports, favorable outcomes can be maximized. This Call to Action promotes early intervention to increase the possibility of positive outcomes, and encourages all involved stakeholders to implement appropriate strategies for intervening effectively with children with an FASD and their families.

The Call to Action was first introduced to the OMHSAS Children’s Advisory Committee in early November. The FASD workgroup now plans to develop strategies for implementing the recommendations.
Additional resources:

PowerPoint presentation on FASD from Bureau of Children’s Behavioral Health Services, 10/9/14

June 2012 PA CASSP Newsletter, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Pennsylvania"

FASD Center for Excellence, an initiative of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Action Plan
The Pennsylvania Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Action Plan 2008 from the Department of Health “is intended to provide a plan of action to address the very serious issue of birth defects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. With a prevalence rate estimated at 1 in 100 live births for a spectrum of disorders which are 100 preventable, it is vital for the commonwealth to take steps toward prevention and intervention of FASD.”

The plan was developed by a state task force that included parents, advocates, physicians, researchers, service providers, nurses and government policy makers. It lists goals and objectives in five major areas:

Awareness: Increase awareness of FASD and its symptoms.

Data: Collect, interpret, and disseminate information on FASD.

Education: Increase the knowledge of FASD within the professional community and the general population.

Funding: Ensure adequate funding for prevention as well as services for diagnosis and intervention for children, adults and families affected by FASD.

System: Align and improve systems of care by making FASD a statewide priority.

According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation and birth defects in the United States, and affects about 40,000 babies each year—more than spina bifida, Downs Syndrome and muscular dystrophy combined. Effects of FASD include growth deficits, mental retardation, physical defects, behavior problems, attention and memory problems, difficulties with motor skills and poor judgment. Additional descriptions and diagnostic labels for children and adolescents with FASD include oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attachment disorder, sleep disorders, extreme aggressiveness, extreme impulsivity and learning disability. The Centers for Disease Control asserts that there is no cure for FASD, but if children are identified early and receive appropriate services, they can be helped.

For additional information about FASD and two Pennsylvania family stories, check out the June 2006 edition of the PA CASSP Newsletter, Focus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Resources on FASD

Videoconference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Presented by Dr. Gordon Hodas, OMHSAS statewide child psychiatric consultant; Deborah Hardy, OMHSAS; and Dianna Brocious, Pennsylvania Families Incorporated. This two-hour videoconference is co-sponsored by OMHSAS and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, Office of Education and Regional Programming and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences, recorder May 8, 2013. The presentation gives an overview of the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on an individual over his/her lifetime, intervention approaches, statistics regarding prevalence of FASD in Pennsylvania and recommended actions for the state of Pennsylvania to address the issues.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A State Perspective on Policy and Practice Implications for Early Childhood Mental Health Practitioners, presented at the Second Annual Infant Mental Health Conference, October 22, 2010, Philadelphia, PA.

The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Library at Georgetown University has key resources on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), including web sites; fact sheets and brochures; screening, diagnosis, surveillance, intervention, and training tools; prevention-education materials (in both English and other languages); and other materials. 

Overview of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, February 1, 2012; webinar presented by the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions, Pittsburgh. The full webinar will also be availble for viewing online. — Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

From Minnesota:

Continuing Medical Education, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: What it is and how it affects the child, family and society,” online training sponsored by the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome