The occurrence of FASD is not limited by class or ethnicity; it touches people from all walks of life. Many factors, such as lack of access to diagnosticians and differing policies on reportable birth defects, lead to a lack of complete and accurate statistics on the prevalence of FASD; however, Health Canada reports that FASD is more prevalent than all other major birth defects combined. The most often used, very conservative, estimate of 1:100 indicates that an average of at least one child is born with FASD every week on Vancouver Island alone. Further, recent studies in Italy indicate that, an average of 2.4 – 4.7 babies out of every 100 are born with FASD. Research published in 2014 found the same 2.4% – 4.8% of 6 and 7 year old children in a Midwestern U.S. community have FASD. 1
1May et al, Pediatrics, October 2014
Diagnostic guidelines for FASD have recently changed. The DSM –V published in 2013 included FASD for the first time. Canadian guidelines for diagnosis were updated in 2015. Key Points of the 2015 guidelines as described in the Canadian Medical Association Journal are:
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term describing the constellation of effects that result from prenatal alcohol exposure.
- Making a diagnosis of FASD requires a multidisciplinary team and involves a complex physical and neurodevelopmental assessment.
- Diagnosis of FASD is critical to improve outcomes for affected individuals and families, and to inform pre-pregnancy counselling to prevent future cases. 2
2CMAJ, February 16, 2016, 188(3)
FASD includes the diagnoses of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD), Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND), Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (PAE) and other physical behavioural and learning disabilities.