The use of the word fetal in FASD has led to the misunderstanding that children will 'grow out of it'. In fact FASD are life-long conditions and, although the difficulties for these children will change over time, those at the severe end of the spectrum with full blown FAS will always struggle with life and learning. The severity of the struggle depends largely on the frequency of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The clinical features of FAS are grouped into four areas known as the 4-Digit Code:
- pre and post-natal growth retardation - children are light in weight, short in length and have a smaller than normal head circumference
- facial features: including mid-facial flattening, smaller than normal opening to the eye (the measurement of the eye opening from one corner to the other), absent philtrum (the ridges between the nose and the upper lip) and thin upper lip
- moderate-to-severe learning difficulties (see entry Learning Disability)
- a history of heavy maternal alcohol consumption. This information is not always readily available but a diagnosis of partial FAS can be made without knowledge of maternal drinking.
Sleeping and feeding problems, sensory-motor problems, hearing/visual abnormalities along with social and emotional deficits, adaptive functioning deficits and mental health issues such as depression are common.