What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adopted Children?
When a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the child can be born with a range of range of physical, mental, and psychological disorders that are grouped together under the term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (“FAS” or “FASD”). The effects on the child can range from very mild to very severe, and can include: birth defects, delayed motor development, vision & hearing problems, memory issues, attention span difficulties, and problems learning and communicating.
While the effects of FAS differ from one child to another, the long-term outcome for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can be improved substantially by early diagnosis, targeted intervention, and appropriate therapy.
How Do I Know if My Adopted Child Has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
When adopting a baby or an older child, there is no definitive way to know if the child suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). And while Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a disease, there is not a definitive “medical test” to diagnose it. Further, in many cases, a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder may not demonstrate symptoms until they are much older.
Some adoption records and/or background information about the biological mother will show if she used alcohol during the gestation period. However, not all children who have been exposed to alcohol in the womb will develop FAS.
Statistically, however, 90% of all the children who are adopted through the foster care system come from families where alcohol is abused. And approximately half of all children adopted through the foster care system have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
In international adoptions, the country of origin may give a clue as to the likelihood of FAS. For example, alcohol use in Russia is among the highest in the world, according to the World Health Organization – leading to a greater likely hood of FAS than in a child adopted from a developing nation where alcohol is scarce.
If you know your child was carried by a biological mother who likely consumed alcohol during pregnancy, you simply need to be aware that developmental problems related to FAS may arise. So it is wise to be on the look-out for signs and symptoms of FAS, which then allows you to take early action. Again, it cannot be stressed enough how important early intervention is when treating Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Treating Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adopted Children
Alerting your pediatrician to the possibility of your adopted child possibly having FAS is extremely important. If you doctor is aware of this, she can monitor your child closely and intervene early, when necessary.
Because FAS manifests itself differently in every child – there is no “one size fits all treatment.” The only aspect of FAS treatment that is “universal” is aiming for the earliest intervention possible.
For some adopted children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, specific training in social skills may be necessary. Otherwise, they risk being ostracized, or even bullied, by peers who do not understand their inappropriate social behavior. An adoption therapist who is experienced in FAS can help your child develop these important social skills.
Children with FAS may also need tutors or other help in certain subjects at school that may seem beyond their reach. In addition to getting academic help, counseling from an experienced FAS therapist can also help a child overcome any issues of self-esteem or “feeling dumb” that arise as a result of their learning difficulties.
While more than half of children with FASD have ADHD – many are not hyperactive at all. And, more than half of adults with FAS suffer from clinical depression. For children who’s FAS manifests in more sever disorders such as ADHD or depression, medication may be required. Your pediatrician and your child’s therapist can work together to help you identify the best treatments for your child.
Additionally, educating your child’s teachers about FAS can go a long way toward improving your child’s academic success. An understanding teacher can resort to productive teaching techniques, rather than discipline or punishment, to help a child with FAS navigate a social or learning environment that is difficult for them.
Detroit Area Adoption Therapist Treating Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Because there is a very wide spectrum of behavioral disorders among children with FAS, the outcome for infants with fetal alcohol syndrome varies. But with early intervention, and ongoing involvement of your pediatrician, your child’s teachers and an experienced therapist the prognosis can be very good.
As an experienced adoption therapist, I have assisted many families as they navigate the challenges of raising an adopted child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. With a warm, thoughtful, and caring approach I will be happy to work with you and your pediatrician to help you and your adopted child live a happy and fulfilled life.