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What is FASD?

FASD is an umbrella term describing a range of effects that can occur in a child exposed in utero to alcohol.  FASD is a major cause of learning disabilities, school failure, homelessness, and unemployment. They are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.

  • Each year as many as 100,000 babies are born with FASD in the U.S.

  • The majority of those affected show few, if any, physical signs of disability.

  • Because some symptoms are similar, FASD is commonly misdiagnosed as ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

  • FASD is more prevalent than autism, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida combined.

  • Thousands of adults are living with this disorder today, including many of whom have never been diagnosed.  They fall between the cracks and are unable to access services or supports of any kind.

Cause of FASD

FASD is caused by a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

  • Alcohol is a teratogen (an agent that alters the normal development of a fetus) and is considered more damaging than other drugs. It crosses the placenta, destroying brain cells and causing lifelong impairments. (See video here.)

  • A significant amount of damage can occur during the first trimester when the frontal lobe is developing (responsible for higher brain function), even if women are unaware they are pregnant

  • There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant.

  • There is no safe time to drink during pregnancy.

  • Today, one in eight pregnant women in the US report alcohol use in the past 30 days. One in 50 have reported binge drinking in the past 30 days (five or more drinks at one time).

  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100% preventable.

Useful Links

Click on the links below for more information.

Prenatal Drug Exposure and Disruption of Attachment

Attachment must travel a two-way street

by Dr. Ira Chasnoff 

This article appeared in Psychology Today March 2015

Most simply, attachment is the interconnectedness between human beings.  Central to long-term social development, attachment theory says that all children have attachments – either positive or negative – but all children have attachments.  Positive attachments are protective, while negative attachments place children at high risk for long-term social/emotional outcome.  

For successful attachment to occur, there are two requirements:  each individual must be able to read the other’s cues and each individual must be able to respond appropriately to the other’s cues.  These thoughts came to mind as I read a recently published book, When Mama Can’t Kiss it Better by Lori Gertz.  In it, Lori tells the emotional and gripping story from the time of her family’s adopting a beautiful newborn girl through the time seven years later when the adoption disrupted and the child was moved to another family and another state where perhaps her needs could be better met. 

Briefly, Lori and her husband Craig met and worked with a birth mother throughout a good portion of the pregnancy and were present for the delivery.  There was no history of drug or alcohol abuse in any of the information Lori and Craig were able to gather, but from the moment of birth the baby showed a classic picture of severe neonatal abstinence.  The doctors caring for the infant didn’t recognize this, nor did Lori and Craig, who quickly became enamored of the baby girl in spite of her incessant crying, irritability, and screaming.  By just a few months after the birth, Lori and Craig found themselves in an endless cycle of seeking help from one doctor after another.  And,  similar to many adoptive families, the couple were repeatedly told the baby was merely fussy, the baby was allergic to a variety of foods, the baby would be fine, and, ultimately, it was their fault the baby was like this.

When the infant was three years old, Lori and Craig and the family underwent a comprehensive evaluation.  This was only after they learned from the birth mother’s brother that there had been heavy alcohol and drug use throughout the pregnancy and that the birth mother had recently died of a drug overdose.  The child presented to the clinicians with severe behavioral difficulties, most of which went far beyond anything that could even remotely be considered “normal.”  I won’t go into the specifics of the family’s daily life; the book spells it out in agonizing detail.  But imagine a worse case scenario.



Our Mission

To create sustainable living communities across the United States for young adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) that will give them the support they need to become contributing members of society.

FASD Communities

FASD Communities is a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing supportive housing, vocational opportunities and life skills to young adults across the U.S. affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Our team of volunteers has unparalleled expertise in education, business, finance, communications and healthcare—but our real credentials are as parents or close friends of this population. After years of safety and stability at home, we have watched too many of our children end up on the streets, chronically unemployed, in trouble with the law and victimized as they struggle in their transition to adulthood. Our solution is Supportive Housing. Please consider a tax-deductable donation of any amount to support FASD Communities as we launch our first self sustaining supportive housing for young adults with FASDs

Donate to FASD Communities
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