Identifying Behaviours Associated with FASD

The following are examples of behaviours linked to brain-based challenges associated with FASD in adults and what they look like.

  • Risk exposure, either for themselves or their dependents, due to difficulty understanding the difference between safety and danger: for example, a parent may allow a person convicted of child molestation to spend time with their children, and then be unable to link cause and effect when the risk is explained. Parents with FASD may need consistent hands-on support to be reminded of the risk and follow the safety plan.   
  • Inconsistent problem solving and an inability to generalize solutions to problems: a problem may be solved in one situation, but the same solution may not be readily available to solve the same or a similar problem in the future. This can be confusing for both the social worker and the person with FASD. Frequent contact with consistent, relationship-based supports is helpful when problems arise.  
  • Apparent neglect, carelessness, and lack of hygiene, associated with poor memory and a limited understanding of the concept of time: for example, a new mother with FASD may not realize she must feed her baby every 4 hours and wake the baby to do it. Visual and auditory tools (link to Intervention page) to prompt memory may help. However for many adults it is challenging to accept support or use the visual tools. A support person who has spent time building a strong trusting relationship is in a much better position to provide advice and practical in-home support.

Traditional child welfare interventions imposed on parents in an attempt to increase child safety, such as addictions treatment, parenting classes, and therapy, may have limited impact due to challenges associated with FASD. Many service providers recognize the need to adapt program delivery methods and are doing so with success. With support many parents with FASD are able to parent safely, however, the reality is that some are not. Sometimes parents with FASD who have complied with agency expectations are still unable to independently safely care for their children.

Identifying Behaviours Associated with FASD in Children

In a child who may have been prenatally exposed to alcohol, the following behaviours could  indicate the need for early intervention. There can be multiple causes for the behaviours listed below, and a doctor needs to be consulted.

In infants and toddlers behaviours may include

  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty feeding
  • excessive crying after baby’s needs have been met
  • sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • delay in meeting developmental milestones

 A developmental pediatrician or family doctor is able to make referrals for clinical interventions such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, psychological assessment and/or for FASD assessment when available.

In school-aged children troubling behaviours may include difficulty

  • learning and meeting behaviour expectations at school
  • handling money
  • telling time
  • thinking things through and reasoning
  • learning from past experiences and so repeating the same mistakes over and over
  • remembering things like homework, birthday parties, or appointments
  • making and keeping friends, and getting along with others

For more information about FASD symptoms visit the Hospital for Sick Children website;