CanFASD recently released a new issue paper, Why FASD Diagnostic Assessment is Important. Below is a short summary. You can find the full issue paper here.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe the lifelong impacts neurobehavioral and physical impacts on the brain and body of people prenatally exposed to alcohol. Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily lives. So early and effective identification, followed by appropriate interventions is important for improving outcomes.
- Individuals with FASD are often unidentified and when unsupported, many experience complex challenges, some related to mental health and substance use
- Every individual with FASD is unique and presents both strengths and challenges that can be identified through a multidisciplinary FASD diagnostic assessment.
Importance and Implications of an Early FASD Diagnostic Assessment
- Although FASD is a permanent, lifelong disability, an early and accurate diagnosis opens the door to accessing a wide range of early intervention supports and services.
- Identification and diagnosis has proven to:
- Identify the strengths upon which to build, support and guide realistic and meaningful goals in all areas
- Provide a sense of relief and understanding for families
- Provide a sense of community belonging for encourage self-advocacy
- Assist in obtaining health, education, and vocational services
- Form a foundation of supports and services to help with transition times (school, adult life & services)
The Role of Screening in FASD Diagnostic Assessment
- Screening of children for Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (PAE) accompanied with an early diagnosis can help provide appropriate intervention, treatment, counselling, and support for parents.
- It is important to note that screening is only effective if individuals are being screened accurately.
Diagnostic Assessment Across the Lifespan
- Although challenging, it is possible to accurately diagnose infants and young children with FASD.
- Early assessment and identification in preschool aged children can assist parents, caregivers, and professionals in supporting the child, which can prevent future potential adverse outcomes.
- An FASD diagnosis during adulthood is still beneficial and can allow access to support in education,employment, housing, financial assistance, specialized mental health treatment, and assistance with a variety of daily living tasks, that otherwise may not be available.
Take Home Message:
While an FASD diagnosis is beneficial at any age, an early diagnosis can increase access to appropriate intervention and support services which can mitigate the development of difficulties in daily living while promoting healthier outcomes.
For more information, including recommendations, please read the full issue paper here.
Authors: Jocelyn Cook, Audrey McFarlane, Katherine Flannigan, Ana Hanlon-Dearman & Kathy Unsworth
Date: May 2023