23 Jan

Changing outcomes for people with FASD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has a profound impact on individuals from birth and as they age. Understanding FASD as a brain injury is instrumental in achieving better outcomes for people.  

Like many other brain injuries, FASD is a hidden disability meaning its impact may not be visible but still needs to be considered in how people are supported. FASD describes a range of different cognitive and physical impairments on a person that’s been exposed to alcohol and/or drugs prior to birth. People with FASD can have significant cognitive, behavioural, health and learning difficulties (including problems with memory, attention, cause and effect reasoning, impulsivity, receptive language and adaptive functioning difficulties).   

Ways to improve outcomes

Consider that every person with FASD is unique 

Just like every person with a brain injury, every person with FASD is different. Targeted interventions should be shaped by someone’s unique challenges and leverage their strengths. Taking a personalised and tailored approach based on your understanding of the individual is always the best way to support them. Research suggests that early identification and intervention is linked to improved psychosocial and behavioural outcomes, yet many people are not diagnosed until adulthood – if at all.  

Understand FASD is different to neurodevelopmental impairments 

FASD is a brain injury, as it’s damage to the physical brain. It can be confused with neurodevelopmental conditions, like ADHD or autism, as some behaviours and cognitive problems can be similar. Because of this, we need to be mindful that strategies and approaches are considering the nuanced differences in the conditions.  

Remember people are still accountable for actions and behaviour 

Behaviour may become the primary form of communication for someone with FASD, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t or shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. We need to remember to respect their independence and communicate when actions aren’t acceptable to circumstances in a way that works for them and ensures they can understand and remember. 

Be mindful FASD can increase interactions with youth justice systems 

FASD can lead to a poor self-concept, disrupted peer relationships, fractured education, and see people end up youth justice services. Young people in contact with youth justice services include an over-representation of individuals living with an undetected FASD. Synapse is working with Government to prioritise screening of FASD in correctional settings to improve service planning and implementation and as a result reduce incarceration and reoffending.  

Synapse is committed to increasing awareness about FASD, particularly in relation to people who may be undiagnosed and at risk of homelessness and/or engagement with the criminal justice system.