Stability Helps Children With FAS
August 12, 2004
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE (AP) - Children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome are less likely to have social problems related to the disease if raised in a stable and nurturing environment, a study shows.

"They can be successful in life, but they have special needs,'' said Ann Streissguth, UW professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "We need a community that is aware of that, and when that is understood from their birth on, it is so much better for them.''

The study by scientists at UW and the University of Michigan appears in Thursday's edition of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

The research is based on extensive "life history interviews'' with caregivers or others close to 415 patients who ranged in age from 6 to 51.

People with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect have deficiencies in problem-solving and judgment, and have lower IQ levels. Many experience significant social problems as they develop, such as incarceration, repeated inappropriate sexual behaviors, and alcohol or drug abuse.

Scientists found that children diagnosed early who come from stable homes were two to four times less likely to have such problems.

Early diagnosis and therapy can enable children to better respond to sensations, learn behavior patterns and control volatile emotions, said Streissguth and her colleague Helen Barr, a UW biostatistician.

If a young child has memory, attention or behavior problems, FAS or FAE should be considered a possibility, Streissguth said. And a mother should be asked if she drank alcohol during pregnancy.