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What is FASD?

Common description:

“FASD results when prenatal alcohol exposure affects the developing brain and body. FASD is a spectrum. Each person with FASD is affected differently. While more than 400 conditions can co-occur, FASD is at its core a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. All people with FASD have many strengths. Early diagnosis and appropriate support are essential, especially for executive functioning.”

(Source: FASD: Preferred UK Language Guide, Seashell Trust/National FASD, 2020)

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Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition with lifelong cognitive, emotional and behavioural challenges. In addition to effects on the brain, FASD is a full-body diagnosis that can include more than 400 known conditions.

It’s more common than you think!


Recent research by the University of Bristol indicated that 6% of the research cohort, potentially equivalent to up to 4 million British people, may have FASD. While the UK’s first small-scale active-case ascertainment study is underway and the results not yet published, an active-case ascertainment study in the USA showed rates between 1-5%. In other words, FASD affects more people than autism and is sadly most often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  FASD is often called a ‘hidden disability.’

This study is pending peer review. This figure is considered a conservative estimate due to limitations of the study.
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