Born Addicted to Alcohol


There are different characteristics that accompany FAS in
the different stages of a child's life. "At birth, infants
with intrauterine exposure to alcohol frequently have low
birth rate; pre-term delivery; a small head circumference;
and the characteri stic facial features of the eyes, nose,
and mouth" (Phelps, 1995, p. 204). Some of the facial
abnormalities that are common of children with FAS are:
microcephaly, small eye openings, broad nasal bridge,
flattened mid-faces, thin upper lip, skin folds at the
corners of the eyes, indistinct groove on the upper lip,
and an abnormal smallness of the lower jaw (Wekselman,
Spiering, Hetteberg, Kenner, & Flandermeyer, 1995; Phelps,
1995). These infants also display developmental delays,
psychomotor retardatio n, and cognitive deficits.
As a child with FAS progresses into preschool physical,
cognitive and behavioral abnormalities are more noticeable.
These children are not the average weight and height
compared to the children at the same age level. Cognitive
manifestations is another problem with children who have
FAS. "Studies have found that preschoolers with FAS
generally score in the mentally handicapped to dull normal
range of intelligence" (Phelps, 1995, p. 205). Children
with FAS usually h ave language delay problems during their
preschool years. Research has also shown that these
children exhibit poorly articulated language, delayed use
of sentences or more complex grammatical units, and
inadequate comprehension (Phelps, 1995). There are many
behavioral characteristics that are common among children
with FAS. The most common characteristic is hyperactivity
(Phelps, 1995). "Hyperactivity is found in 85% of
FAS-affected children regardless of IQ" (Wekeselman et al.,
1995, p. 299 ). School failure, behavior management
difficulties, and safety issues are some of the problems
associated with hyperactivity and attention deficit
disorder. Another behavioral abnormality of with children
with FAS, is social problems. "Specific diffic ulties
included inability to respect personal boundaries,
inappropriately affectionate, demanding of attention,
bragging, stubborn, poor peer relations, and overly tactile
in social interactions" (Phelps, 1995, p. 206). Children
are sometimes not diagnosed with FAS until they reach
kindergarten and are in a real school setting. School-aged
children with FAS still have most of the same physical and
mental problems that were diagnosed when they were younger.
The craniofa cial malformations is one of the only physical
characteristic that diminishes during late childhood
(Phelps, 1995).
"Several studies have evaluated specific areas of cognitive
dysfunction in school-age children exposed prenatally to
alcohol. Researchers have substantiated: (a) short term
memory deficits in verbal and visual material; (b)
inadequate processing of inf ormation, reflected b sparse
integration of information and poor quality of responses;
(c) inflexible approaches to problem solving; and (d)
difficulties in mathematical computations" (Phelps, 1995 p.
The behavioral manifestations of a child with FAS during
the early years of life are still apparent in children who
are in grade school. Hyperactivity is still the most common
characteristic portrayed by these children. Some of the
descriptions used to explain these school-aged children's
behaviors include: distractible, impulsive, inattentive,
uncooperative, poorly organized, and little persistence
toward task completion (Phelps, 1995).
As a child reaches puberty and develops into an adult, some
of the physical, mental and behavioral characteristics
change. These adolescents begin to gain weight, but still
remain short and microphalic (Phelps, 1995).
Cognitive abilities of children with FAS continue to be low
through adolescence and adulthood. Low Academic performance
scores of adolescents and adults are persistent throughout
their lives. Many cognitive tests have been done on
adolescent/adults wi th FAS, and each of them have found
deficiencies in mathematics and reading comprehension
(Shelton & Cook, 1993).
The behavioral manifestations of adolescents and adults
with FAS continue to concentrate around the problem of
hyperactivity. Inattentiveness, distractibility,
restlessness , and agitation are the main behaviors stem
from hyperactivity. "Vineland Adap tive Behavior Scales
results suggest that communication and socialization skills
average around the seven year old range"(Phelps, 1995, p.
The prevalence of children with FAS is on the rise. More
than ever, children are being diagnosed with FAS. Better
techniques and knowledge by physicians are accountable for
the increase. Physicians are diagnosing more babies today
with FAS, because th ey have more knowledge and resources
to evaluate the children at risk. FAS has no racial
barriers and has been reported by variable ages from
neonatal to young adult (Becker, Warr-Leeper, & Leeper,
1990). Estimates in the United States of people with FA S
vary from 2 live births per 1,000 to 1 per 750 (Shelton &
Cook, 1993). "In a medical review of 5602 women, six
instances of FAS were identified among 38 children of
alcohol abusing women. Although 22 of the 38 were traced at
follow-up, the outcome fo r the 6 FAS cases per se was not
specified. Nevertheless, 18 of 22 children of the
alcohol-abusing women were found to be in state hospitals"
(Emhart, Greene, Sokol, Martier, Boyd, & Ager, 1995,
p.1550). For a doctor to identify a child as having FAS,
he/she must have the proper education. A test to see if a
child has a central nervous system dysfunction or growth
deficiency is not enough for a reliable diagnosis. An
accurate diagnosis would also involve a facial phenotype
study (Astley & Clarren, 1 995). The Southwestern Native
Americans have the highest incidence of FAS in the United States (Shelton & Cook, 1993). "Native Americans are three
times as likely as Caucasians to produce FAS children"
(Shelton & Cook, 1993, p. 45). Tribes that have a loose
social organization reflect a higher rate of FAS compared
to a structured organization because the structured
organization views a alcoholic female in the tribe as
socially unacceptable (Shelton & Cook, 1993). More cases of
FAS are being diagnosed , but there is many children who
slip through the cracks and do not receive the support that
is needed.
There are few interventions and programs to help children
that are affected by FAS. "Most states fail to identify FAS
program coordinators, it is difficult to ascertain
respective program parameters" (Shelton & Cook, 1993, p.
45). Many children with FAS are living with an alcoholic
parent. Children of alcoholics are at greater risk for
developing social and emotional problems that need
intervention options so they do not follow in their parents
footsteps and become alcoholics (Wekselman et al., 199 5).
"Even though public schools are attempting to work with
FAS, the bottom line is that more research needs to be done
on treating FAS" (Shelton & Cook, 1993, p.46).
Educators and administration personnel working in the
school system should be knowledgeable about FAS and the
different age characteristics, degrees of incidences , and
interventions that are available to their students. All
children with FAS are at ri sk for failure in school and in
every day life. With proper diagnosis and treatment that is
available, some of these failures will be avoided.
The main element that is causing FAS is addiction. Children
with FAS did not have the choice of saying no and have to
live with their mothers decision to drink every day of
their lives. Something needs to be done with mothers who
have babies that are ad dicted at birth. Laws and other
regulations will probably not solve the problem, but make
it more complex. A mother shouldn't have a child if she has
an addiction problem. Woman should be able to receive free
abortions if they are addicts and don't wan t to quit
drinking during their pregnancy. A child should never be
born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Astley, S. J., & Clarren, S. K. (1995). A fetal alcohol
syndrome screening tool. Alcoholism: Clinical and
Experimental Reearch. 19, 1565-1571. Becker, M.,
Warr-Leeper, G. A., Leeper, H. A. (1990). Fetal alcohol
syndrome: a description of oral motor, articulatory,
short-term memory, grammatical, and semantic abilities.
Journal of Communication Disorders. 23, 97-124. Ernhart, C.
B., Greene, T., Sokol, R. J., Martier, S., Boyed, T. A.,
Ager, J. (1995). Neonatal diagnosis of fetal alcohol
syndrome: not necessarily a hopeless prognosis. Alcoholism:
Clinical and Experimental Research. 19, 1550-1557. Phelps,
L. (1995). Psychoeducational outcomes of fetal alcohol
syndrome. School Psychology Review. 24, 200-211. Shelton,
M., Cook, M. (1993). Fetal alcohol syndrome: facts and
prevention. Preventing School Failure. 37, 44-46.
Wekselman, K., Spiering, K., Hetteberg, C., Kenner, C.,
Flandermeyer, A. (1995). Fetal alcohol syndrome from
infancy through childhood: a review of the literature.
Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 10, 296-303.


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