Advocating for Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders

Written by Rachel Aliza Elovitz

  1. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders Generally
    Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause life altering neurodevelopmental disabilities, referred to in the aggregate as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD). “FASD” is an umbrella term, not a diagnosis. The identifiable conditions associated with prenatal alcohol exposure under the FASD umbrella are Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (PFAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
  2. FAS Diagnosis
    An FAS diagnosis connotes impairments in three categories: 1) growth deficiency; 2) central nervous system dysfunction (developmental disability or brain damage); and 3) a characteristic set of facial dysmorphology or malformation. Prenatal alcohol exposure can also cause: heart, lung, and kidney defects; hyperactivity, attention, and memory problems; reasoning, judgment and behavioral problems;poor coordination or motor skill delays; hypersensitivity to sound and touch; difficulty with change; organizational difficulties; poor self-image; depression or withdrawal; problems with truancy; and problems with sexuality.
  3. FASD Effects Are Life-Long
    According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, infants with an FASD suffer from low birth weight; irritability; sensory sensitivity; poor sucking; slow development; poor sleep-wake cycles; and increased ear infections. Toddlers with FASD suffer from poor memory capability, hyperactivity, fearlessness, no sense of boundaries, and the need for excessive physical contact. Grade-school children with an FASD tend to have short attention spans, poor coordination, and difficulty with both fine and gross motor skills. Older children with an FASD have difficulty keeping up in school and tend to suffer from low self-esteem, and teenagers with an FASD often demonstrate poor impulse control and cannot distinguish between public and private behaviors.
  4. An FASD is 100% Preventable
    According to the Institute of Medicine, “Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.” Institute of Medicine, 1996. FASD can be prevented if a pregnant woman abstains from drinking alcohol. FASD does not discriminate. If a woman consumes alcohol during her pregnancy, she is at risk of having a child with an FASD. Women who have an alcohol dependence or other alcohol use disorder are at an increased risk of having a child with an FASD, as are women who have previously given birth to a child with an FASD and who continue to drink alcohol.
  5. Strategies for Assisting Children with an FASD
    There is a dearth of evidence-based knowledge on the effectiveness of FASD interventions, but according to NoFAS, children with an FASD can benefit from supportive environments, consistent routines, limited stimulation, realistic expectations, supervision, and multi-sensory learning. Medication may also reduce the symptoms of FASD, including impulsivity, hyperactivity, oppositional behavior, and sleep disorders. See
  6. No Amount of Prenatal Alcohol Consumption is Safe
    According to the CDC and current studies, no amount of alcohol is safe – and there is no safe time to drink during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and cannot stop drinking, call you doctor and/or use the substance abuse treatment services locator and/or mental health treatment services locator at

Additional Resources
Emory Neurodevelopmental Exposure Clinic 1256 Briarcliff Road NE Room 324 West Atlanta, GA 30306 Phone: (404) 712-9800
Emory University School of Medicine – Department of Human Genetics 2040 Richwood Drive Decatur, GA 30033 Phone: (404) 727-5844 Fax: (404) 727-5783
The Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development Project 1256 Briarcliff Road, Room 309 West Atlanta, GA 30306 Phone: (404) 712-9829
The Council on Alcohol and Drugs 6045 Atlantic Blvd. Norcross, GA 30071 Phone: 770-239-7442 Fax: 770-239-7443
Georgia Division of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse #2 Peachtree Street NW, 23-402 Atlanta, GA 30303 Phone: 404-657-2140 Fax: 404-463-7149
The Arc of Georgia 100 Edgewood Ave. NE Suite 1675 Atlanta, GA 30303 Phone: (678) 733-8969
NOFAS Georgia 1256 Briarcliff Road NE Room 309 West Atlanta, GA 30306 Contact: Dr. Karen K. Howell – 404-712-9829
Georgia Advocacy Office, Inc. 150 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue Suite 430 Decatur, GA 30033 Phone: (404) 885-1234 Fax: (404) 378-0031 Toll Free: 800-537-2329
Georgia Alliance for Drug Endangered Children Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia 244 Washington St., SW, Suite 300 Atlanta, GA 30334-5900 Phone: (404) 463-1453 Fax: (404) 651-6449

Georgia Alliance for Drug Endangered Children
Georgia Advocacy Office
NoFAS Georgia
The ARC of Georgia
The Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development Project
The Council on Alcohol and Drugs
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Rachel A. Elovitz is a domestic litigator who regularly serves as a guardian ad litem, representing the interests of children in custody, abuse, and neglect cases in Georgia’s Superior and Juvenile Courts. She is a regular contributor to the DeKalb Bar News.

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