Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Autism and Fetal Alcohol Disorder - scary how similar.

I attended a conference today to learn more about FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). All the staff from my group home at Bethesda attended, and we had a great, and educated day. The conference was so packed, they had to turn 40 people away because of the size of the venue. People that were there included parents, workers, Behavioural Therapists, teachers, etc.. and we were all there to further learn learn about FASD, how it effects people we love and we support.

I have now heard 2 women talk about FASD, they talk about the disorder itself, and they also talked about being mothers to children that suffer from FASD, very openly. They want to get rid of the shame and the stigma that comes with admitting that they did drink when they were pregnant, whether they knew it or not. I was shocked to learn that the physical features of a child that has FASD can only be effected in utero between days 18-21 in the womb, how rare we think - but unfortunately it is not.

I took a lot away today from the presenter, but what I have found in both speakers that has got my attention more than anything, was the fact that FASD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are very similar as well. Here is an article I have come across:

"There are several types of Autism that together with Asperger’s Syndrome fall under the category of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
There are several types of disorders caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol that together with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) fall under the category of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Both FASD and ASD are part of a broader category of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). Individuals with both types of disorders have developmental disabilities (DD).
There may be an overlap of the two diagnoses. Some children have Autism and a fetal alcohol disorder. It is possible that some cases of Autism are indeed caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, just as many cases of ADHD are caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. It is assumed that Autism can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. (1)
There is evidence that prenatal exposure to alcohol may be a factor in autism (2). 
Children with FASD and ASD are often grouped together in educational and therapeutic programs. Intervention strategies for children with Autism are often applied to children with FASD, and vice versa. (4, 5, 6)

Please do not misunderstand what is stated here. This does not claim that all Autism is caused by alcohol. This does not claim that FASD is the same as Autism. This does suggest that some cases of Autism are related to alcohol exposure. The main point is that both FASD and Autism are part of the disability category of pervasive developmental disorders, and as such FASD should be included under the Autism group to meet the criteria for services for persons with developmental disabilities, because the criteria required under Arizona Revised Statues for Autism are present in FASD.

Without appropriate services, individuals with FASD are at high risk (94%) of developing secondary disorders that are likely to lead to arrest, addiction, homelessness, injury, or early death. The secondary conditions require programs that are much more costly than protective services that could be provided by the DD system."

Interesting isn't it? I actually took a step back, and I remembered when Dr. Snyder asked me with Owen, and then with Ben if I drank during pregnancy, and seeing this .. it kind of made sense why she would ask me this. I was very lucky with Owen, as I knew I was pregnant right after Christmas, and Maddie we were trying so I did not drink, and same with Ben... but after reading this, and now learning more about FASD, and actually how a lot of behaviours and learning tools are the same as in someone with ASD - I can see how some children are misdiagnosed.

We need to stop the stigma for this disorder, no one wants to talk about and discuss Fetal Alcohol because it is 100% preventable, it does make people upset - but these children have needs too, and it wasn't there fault. 

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