National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Intergovernmental committee on Drugs working party on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Australia: An Update

June 2012

9. Services and Interventions for Children exposed to Alcohol in Pregnancy

Elizabeth Elliott, Elizabeth Peadon and Raewyn Mutch

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Early diagnosis and intervention will allow children with conditions comprising the spectrum of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), to reach their potential, and substantially reduce the risk of secondary social, emotional and behavioural problems in adult life (Streissguth et al. 1991; Streissguth et al. 2004). Diagnosis of FASD in a child also provides an opportunity for offering treatment to the mother and thus preventing alcohol exposure and hence adverse outcomes for both the mother and baby in future pregnancies.

Diagnostic guidelines for assessing children suspected to have FASD have been published in North America (Stratton et al. 1996; Astley 2004; Bertrand et al. 2004; Chudley et al. 2005; Hoyme et al. 2005). Recommendations for services offering assessment of children at risk include: the establishment of multidisciplinary teams whose members should have specific training in assessing children to diagnose or exclude FASD; the ability to assess the child's and family's strengths (and needs) and to make referrals for further investigation or management, as appropriate.

Specialised diagnostic and assessment services have only recently become available in Australia and have neither sufficient nor sustainable funding. A recent international audit of diagnostic and evaluation clinics for children exposed to alcohol in pregnancy or with suspected FASD highlights the value of a multidisciplinary approach and will inform service development in Australia (Peadon et al. 2008). The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has recently funded a pilot FASD diagnostic clinic at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney.

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