A battery of clinical assessments was used in the Lililwan* Project, Australia’s first population-based Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevalence study, conducted in the remote Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia. One objective was to develop and assess test-retest reliability of an acceptable questionnaire for collecting health information in remote Aboriginal communities feasible for use in the Lililwan Project.
A questionnaire was developed by paediatricians to assist in diagnosis of FASD. Content was based on a literature review of FASD diagnostic criteria, existing questionnaires and risk factors for FASD and birth defects. Aboriginal community members, including qualified Aboriginal language interpreters, adapted the questionnaire to ensure language and cultural components were appropriate for use in the Fitzroy Valley. Locally developed pictorial aids were used for gathering accurate information on alcohol use. Aboriginal ‘community navigators’ assisted researchers to translate the questions into Kimberley Kriol or local Aboriginal languages depending on participant preference.
A subset of 14 questions was assessed for test-retest reliability in 30 parents/carers of children in the Lililwan Project cohort, who were interviewed by one rater using the entire questionnaire, then by a second rater who repeated 14 critical questions at least 6 hours later.
The full questionnaire contained 112 items and took 50 minutes to administer. For a subset of 14 items from the full questionnaire percent exact agreement between raters ranged from 59-100%, and was below 70% for only 1 question. Test-retest reliability was excellent (Kappa 0.81-1.00) for 5 items, substantial (Kappa 0.61-0.80) for 5 items, and moderate, fair or slight (Kappa ≤0.60) for the remaining 4 items tested. Test-retest reliability for questions relating to alcohol use in pregnancy was excellent. When questions had moderate, fair or slight agreement, information was obtained from alternate sources e.g. medical records. Qualitative feedback from parents/carers confirmed acceptability of the questionnaire.
This questionnaire had acceptable test-retest reliability and could be used to collect demographic, socio-cultural and biomedical information relevant to the diagnosis of FASD in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia and elsewhere. Community input is crucial when developing and administering questionnaires for use in cross-cultural contexts.
*Lililwan is a Kimberley Kriol word meaning ‘all the little ones’. Kimberley Kriol is the main language spoken by Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Valley.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Indigenous; Questionnaire development; Diagnosis; Reliability testing; Reproducibility of results; Test-retest; Percent exact agreement
The Lililwan Project is the first population-based study to determine Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) prevalence in Australia and was conducted in the remote Fitzroy Valley in North Western Australia. The diagnostic process for FASD requires accurate assessment of gross and fine motor functioning using standardised cut-offs for impairment. The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2) is a norm-referenced assessment of motor function used worldwide and in FASD clinics in North America. It is available in a Complete Form with 53 items or a Short Form with 14 items. Its reliability in measuring motor performance in children exposed to alcohol in utero or living in remote Australian Aboriginal communities is unknown.
A prospective inter-rater and test-retest reliability study was conducted using the BOT-2 Short Form. A convenience sample of children (n = 30) aged 7 to 9 years participating in the Lililwan Project cohort (n = 108) study, completed the reliability study. Over 50% of mothers of Lililwan Project children drank alcohol during pregnancy. Two raters simultaneously scoring each child determined inter-rater reliability. Test-retest reliability was determined by assessing each child on a second occasion using predominantly the same rater. Reliability was analysed by calculating Intra-Class correlation Coefficients, ICC(2,1), Percentage Exact Agreement (PEA) and Percentage Close Agreement (PCA) and measures of Minimal Detectable Change (MDC) were calculated.
Thirty Aboriginal children (18 male, 12 female: mean age 8.8 years) were assessed at eight remote Fitzroy Valley communities. The inter-rater reliability for the BOT-2 Short Form score sheet outcomes ranged from 0.88 (95%CI, 0.77 – 0.94) to 0.92 (95%CI, 0.84 – 0.96) indicating excellent reliability. The test-retest reliability (median interval between tests being 45.5 days) for the BOT-2 Short Form score sheet outcomes ranged from 0.62 (95%CI, 0.34 – 0.80) to 0.73 (95%CI, 0.50 – 0.86) indicating fair to good reliability. The raw score MDC was 6.12.
The BOT-2 Short Form has acceptable reliability for use in remote Australian Aboriginal communities and will be useful in determining motor deficits in children exposed to alcohol prenatally. This is the first known study evaluating the reliability of the BOT-2 Short Form, either in the context of assessment for FASD or in Aboriginal children.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); Alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorder; Australian Aborigine; Maternal use of alcohol; School-aged children; Reproducibility of results; Culture; Motor skills; Child development
Australia’s commitment to consumer and community participation in health and medical research has grown over the past decade. Participatory research models of engagement are the most empowering for consumers.
As part of a project to develop a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia (FASD Project), the Australian FASD Collaboration (Collaboration), including a consumer advocate and two consumer representatives, was established. On completion of the FASD Project an on-line survey of Collaboration members was conducted to assess their views on consumer involvement. Women in the community were also invited to participate in Community Conversations to discuss real life situations regarding communications with health professionals about alcohol and pregnancy. Community Conversation feedback was analysed qualitatively and attendees were surveyed about their views of the Community Conversation process.
The on-line survey was completed by 12 members of the Collaboration (71%). Consumer and community participation was considered important and essential, worked well, and was integral to the success of the project. The 32 women attending the Community Conversations generated 500 statements that made reference to prevention, how information and messages are delivered, and appropriate support for women. Nearly all the attendees at the Community Conversations (93%) believed that they had an opportunity to put forward their ideas and 96% viewed the Community Conversations as a positive experience.
The successful involvement of consumers and the community in the FASD Project can be attributed to active consumer and community participation, which included continued involvement throughout the project, funding of participation activities, and an understanding of the various contributions by the Collaboration members.
Consumer participation; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Research
Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) display many problems ranging from deficits in intelligence to behavioral difficulties. Thus, many studies have aimed to better define the neuropsychological characteristics of children with FASD. The current article describes the neuropsychological characteristics of Italian children with severe diagnosis within FASD and compares them with controls. It was expected that intellectual functioning, language comprehension, academic skills, and inattention/hyperactivity would discriminate children with FASD from randomly-selected peers without FASD.
This paper presents data from a second cohort of children examined in 2005 as part of an in-school epidemiological study of FASD in Italy. Eighty children, 23 diagnosed with a FASD, and 57 randomly-selected control children from the same 1st grade classes, participated. After screening for FASD via growth and dysmorphology, the children were administered a test of general intelligence (WISC-R) as well as tests of nonverbal reasoning (Raven Colored Progressive Matrices), language comprehension (Rustioni), academic achievement (IPDA), and problem behavior (Disruptive Behavior Disorder Rating Scale).
Children diagnosed with a FASD achieved lower scores than control children on Verbal, Performance, and Full Scale IQ. Profile analysis of the WISC-R indicates overall differences between the groups. However, some intact functioning within the FASD group was found, as the Similarities and Vocabulary subtests were similar to the controls. After an alpha adjustment to .004, the Block Design, Object Assembly, and Mazes subtests were significantly different from controls. On tests of nonverbal reasoning, language comprehension, and academic achievement, the children with a FASD scored significantly lower. Moreover, teachers rated children with a severe diagnosis within FASD as showing more inattentive symptoms than controls, while hyperactive/impulsive characteristics among children with a FASD were comparable with the control children. Significant correlations between head circumference, child dysmorphology, WISC-R, and Raven CPM scores are also reported.
This study indicates that a sample of Italian children with a FASD, when compared to control children, display poorer functioning on measures of general intelligence, nonverbal reasoning, academic achievement, and teacher-rated problem behaviors. The findings also contribute to the formulation of a neuropsychological profile of children diagnosed with a FASD.
fetal alcohol syndrome; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; neuropsychological characteristics; Italian children
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are underdiagnosed in Australia, and health professionals have endorsed the need for national guidelines for diagnosis. The aim of this study was to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
A panel of 13 health professionals, researchers, and consumer and community representatives with relevant expertise attended a 2-day consensus development workshop to review evidence on the screening and diagnosis of FASD obtained from a systematic literature review, a national survey of health professionals and community group discussions. The nominal group technique and facilitated discussion were used to review the evidence on screening and diagnosis, and to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
The use of population-based screening for FASD was not recommended. However, there was consensus support for the development of standard criteria for referral for specialist diagnostic assessment. Participants developed consensus recommendations for diagnostic categories, criteria and assessment methods, based on the adaption of elements from both the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code and the Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis. Panel members also recommended the development of resources to: facilitate consistency in referral and diagnostic practices, including comprehensive clinical guidelines and assessment instruments; and to support individuals undergoing assessment and their parents or carers.
These consensus recommendations provide a foundation for the development of guidelines and other resources to promote consistency in the diagnosis of FASD in Australia. Guidelines for diagnosis will require review and evaluation in the Australian context prior to national implementation as well as periodic review to incorporate new knowledge.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Diagnosis; Consensus
There is little reliable information on the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia and no coordinated national approach to facilitate case detection. The aim of this study was to identify health professionals’ perceptions about screening for FASD in Australia.
A modified Delphi process was used to assess perceptions of the need for, and the process of, screening for FASD in Australia. We recruited a panel of 130 Australian health professionals with experience or expertise in FASD screening or diagnosis. A systematic review of the literature was used to develop Likert statements on screening coverage, components and assessment methods which were administered using an online survey over two survey rounds.
Of the panel members surveyed, 95 (73%) responded to the questions on screening in the first survey round and, of these, 81 (85%) responded to the second round. Following two rounds there was consensus agreement on the need for targeted screening at birth (76%) and in childhood (84%). Participants did not reach consensus agreement on the need for universal screening at birth (55%) or in childhood (40%). Support for targeted screening was linked to perceived constraints on service provision and the need to examine the performance, costs and benefits of screening.
For targeted screening of high risk groups, we found highest agreement for siblings of known cases of FASD (96%) and children of mothers attending alcohol treatment services (93%). Participants agreed that screening for FASD primarily requires assessment of prenatal alcohol exposure at birth (86%) and in childhood (88%), and that a checklist is needed to identify the components of screening and criteria for referral at birth (84%) and in childhood (90%).
There is an agreed need for targeted but not universal screening for FASD in Australia, and sufficient consensus among health professionals to warrant development and evaluation of standardised methods for targeted screening and referral in the Australian context. Participants emphasised the need for locally-appropriate, evidence-based approaches to facilitate case detection, and the importance of ensuring that screening and referral programs are supported by adequate diagnostic and management capacity.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are the physical and neurodevelopmental outcomes of fetal alcohol exposure. The behavioral phenotype of children with FASD includes difficulties with executive function, memory, planning, processing speed, and attention. Although attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is diagnosed in up to 94% of individuals with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure, the exact relationship between FASD and ADHD is unclear. There is some evidence that ADHD in FASD may be a specific clinical subtype and thus may require a different treatment approach. Although traditional behavioral observation scales may not distinguish between the two groups, there is evidence that children with FASD have a different profile on the four-factor model of attention than children with ADHD who do not have FASD. There is a paucity of good scientific evidence on effective interventions for individuals with ADHD and FASD. There is weak evidence that children with FASD and ADHD may have a better response to dexamphetamine than methylphenidate. There is a strong need for larger, high quality studies to examine the relationship between ADHD and FASD and identify effective treatments because management of inattention and hyperactivity may improve learning and ameliorate the common secondary disabilities associated with FASD.
fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Despite the availability of five guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), there is no national endorsement for their use in diagnosis in Australia. In this study we aimed to describe health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia and identify implications for the development of national guidelines.
We surveyed 130 Australian and 9 international health professionals with expertise or involvement in the screening or diagnosis of FASD. An online questionnaire was used to evaluate participants’ familiarity with and use of five existing diagnostic guidelines for FASD, and to assess their perceptions about the adoption of these guidelines in Australia.
Of the 139 participants surveyed, 84 Australian and 8 international health professionals (66.2%) responded to the questions on existing diagnostic guidelines. Participants most frequently reported using the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code (27.2%) and the Canadian guidelines (18.5%) for diagnosis. These two guidelines were also most frequently recommended for adoption in Australia: 32.5% of the 40 participants who were familiar with the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia, and 30.8% of the 26 participants who were familiar with the Canadian guidelines recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia. However, for the majority of guidelines examined, most participants were unsure whether they should be adopted in Australia. The adoption of existing guidelines in Australia was perceived to be limited by: their lack of evidence base, including the appropriateness of established reference standards for the Australian population; their complexity; the need for training and support to use the guidelines; and the lack of an interdisciplinary and interagency model to support service delivery in Australia.
Participants indicated some support for the adoption of the University of Washington or Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis; however, concerns were raised about the adoption of these diagnostic guidelines in their current form. Australian diagnostic guidelines will require evaluation to establish their validity in the Australian context, and a comprehensive implementation model is needed to facilitate improved diagnostic capacity in Australia.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are the leading non-genetic cause of neurodevelopmental disability in children. Although alcohol is clearly teratogenic, environmental factors such as gravidity and socioeconomic status significantly modify individual FASD risk despite equivalent alcohol intake. An explanation for this variability could inform FASD prevention. Here we show that the most common nutritional deficiency of pregnancy, iron deficiency without anemia (ID), is a potent and synergistic modifier of FASD risk. Using an established rat model of third trimester-equivalent binge drinking, we show that ID significantly interacts with alcohol to impair postnatal somatic growth, associative learning, and white matter formation, as compared with either insult separately. For the associative learning and myelination deficits, the ID-alcohol interaction was synergistic and the deficits persisted even after the offsprings’ iron status had normalized. Importantly, the observed deficits in the ID-alcohol animals comprise key diagnostic criteria of FASD. Other neurobehaviors were normal, showing the ID-alcohol interaction was selective and did not reflect a generalized malnutrition. Importantly ID worsened FASD outcome even though the mothers lacked overt anemia; thus diagnostics that emphasize hematological markers will not identify pregnancies at-risk. This is the first direct demonstration that, as suggested by clinical studies, maternal iron status has a unique influence upon FASD outcome. While alcohol is unquestionably teratogenic, this ID-alcohol interaction likely represents a significant portion of FASD diagnoses because ID is more common in alcohol-abusing pregnancies than generally appreciated. Iron status may also underlie the associations between FASD and parity or socioeconomic status. We propose that increased attention to normalizing maternal iron status will substantially improve FASD outcome, even if maternal alcohol abuse continues. These findings offer novel insights into how alcohol damages the developing brain.
Aims: Although Russia has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable burden of disease, little is known about the existing research on prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) in this country. The objective of this study was to locate and review published and unpublished studies related to any aspect of PAE and FASD conducted in or using study populations from Russia. Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in multiple English and Russian electronic bibliographic databases. In addition, a manual search was conducted in several major libraries in Moscow. Results: The search revealed a small pool of existing research studies related to PAE and/or FASD in Russia (126: 22 in English and 104 in Russian). Existing epidemiological data indicate a high prevalence of PAE and FASD, which underlines the strong negative impact that alcohol has on mortality, morbidity and disability in Russia. High levels of alcohol consumption by women of childbearing age, low levels of contraception use, and low levels of knowledge by health and other professionals regarding the harmful effects of PAE put this country at great risk of further alcohol-affected pregnancies. Conclusions: Alcohol preventive measures in Russia warrant immediate attention. More research focused on alcohol prevention and policy is needed in order to reduce alcohol-related harm, especially in the field of FASD.
In Canada, the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has been estimated to be 1 in 100 live births. Caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol, FASD is the leading cause of neuro-developmental disabilities among Canadian children, and youth. Objective: To measure the health-related quality of life (HRQL) of Canadian children and youth diagnosed with FASD.
A prospective cross-sectional study design was used. One-hundred and twenty-six (126) children and youth diagnosed with FASD, aged 8 to 21 years, living in urban and rural communities throughout Canada participated in the study. Participants completed the Health Utilities Index Mark 3 (HUI3). HUI3 measures eight health attributes: vision, hearing, speech, ambulation, dexterity, emotion, cognition, and pain. Utilities were used to measure a single cardinal value between 0 and 1.0 (0 = all-worst health state; 1 = perfect health) to reflect the global HRQL for that child. Mean HRQL scores and range of scores of children and youth with FASD were calculated. A one-sample t-test was used to compare mean HRQL scores of children and youth with FASD to those from the Canadian population.
Mean HRQL score of children and youth with FASD was 0.47 (95% CI: 0.42 to 0.52) as compared to a mean score of 0.93 (95% CI: 0.92 to 0.94) in those from the general Canadian population (p < 0.001). Children demonstrated moderate to severe dysfunction on the single-attributes of cognition and emotion.
Children and youth with FASD have significantly lower HRQL than children and youth from the general Canadian population. This finding has significant implications for practice, policy development, and research.
This article describes the combined clinical experience of a multidisciplinary group of professionals on the sleep disturbances of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) focusing on sleep hygiene interventions. Such practical and comprehensive information is not available in the literature. Severe, persistent sleep difficulties are frequently associated with this condition but few health professionals are familiar with both FASD and sleep disorders. The sleep promotion techniques used for typical children are less suitable for children with FASD who need individually designed interventions. The types, causes, and adverse effects of sleep disorders, the modification of environment, scheduling and preparation for sleep, and sleep health for their caregivers are discussed. It is our hope that parents and also researchers, who are interested in the sleep disorders of children with FASD, will benefit from this presentation and that this discussion will stimulate much needed evidence-based research.
We investigated the feasibility and construct validity of the Dynamic Gait Index (DGI) in children and explored inter-rater and test-retest reliability. Methods: DGI performance of 10 children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) aged 8 - 15 years was compared to 10 age and sex matched children with typical development (TD). Inter-rater reliability was evaluated for 16 children (10 TD, 6 FASD); 11 children returned for a retest (5 TD, 6 FASD).
The DGI is simple for raters to learn and easy to administer in children. A Mann-Whitney U test identified a significant difference on the DGI total score between children with FASD and TD (P=0.01). Inter-rater and test-retest reliability were promising but need to be further explored. Conclusions: The DGI was feasible and valid in a population of children aged 8-15 years with FASD and TD. Some modifications are suggested for administration of the DGI in children.
adolescent; balance; child; construct validity; fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; feasibility; pediatrics; postural control
Question One of the families in my practice is considering adoption of a 2-year-old child from the former Soviet Union. The family has been reassured by the agency that a doctor will examine the child to rule out developmental delays. However, my understanding from your previous articles is that one cannot rule out fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) at that age. Are these children at increased risk of developing FASD?
Answer You are correct: FASD cannot be ruled out at 2 years of age. The risk of FASD, neglect, and abuse among children in orphanages in the former Soviet Union is high. While adoption of children with known developmental delays should be encouraged and supported, most families seek to adopt with the assumption that these children will be healthy.
While a large body of literature exists on cognitive functioning in alcohol-exposed children, it is unclear if there is a signature neuropsychological profile in children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This study assesses cognitive functioning in children with FASD from several American Indian reservations in the Northern Plains States, and it applies a hierarchical model of simple versus complex information processing to further examine cognitive function. We hypothesized that complex tests would discriminate between children with FASD and culturally similar controls, while children with FASD would perform similar to controls on relatively simple tests.
Our sample includes 32 control children and 24 children with a form of FASD [fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) = 10, partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS) = 14]. The test battery measures general cognitive ability, verbal fluency, executive functioning, memory, and fine motor skills.
Many of the neuropsychological tests produced results consistent with a hierarchical model of simple versus complex processing. The complexity of the tests was determined “a priori” based on the number of cognitive processes involved in them. Multidimensional scaling was used to statistically analyze the accuracy of classifying the neurocognitive tests into a simple versus complex dichotomy. Hierarchical logistic regression models were then used to define the contribution made by complex versus simple tests in predicting the significant differences between children with FASD and controls. Complex test items discriminated better than simple test items. The tests that conformed well to the model were the Verbal Fluency, Progressive Planning Test (PPT), the Lhermitte memory tasks and the Grooved Pegboard Test (GPT). The FASD-grouped children, when compared to controls, demonstrated impaired performance on letter fluency, while their performance was similar on category fluency. On the more complex PPT trials (problems 5–8), as well as the Lhermitte logical tasks, the FASD group performed the worst.
The differential performance between children with FASD and controls was evident across various neuropsychological measures. The children with FASD performed significantly more poorly on the complex tasks than did the controls. The identification of a neurobehavioral profile in children with prenatal alcohol exposure will help clinicians identify and diagnose children with FASD.
fetal alcohol syndrome; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; hierarchical model; neuropsychological characteristics; information processing; American Indian
This pilot study investigated the efficacy of a classroom language and literacy intervention in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The study forms part of a larger, on-going study that includes metacognitive and family support interventions in addition to language and literacy training (LLT). For the LLT study, 65 nine year old children identified as either FASD or not prenatally exposed to alcohol, were recruited. Forty children with FASD were randomly assigned to either a Language and Literacy Training (LLT) intervention group or FASD control group (FASD-C). Twenty-five non alcohol-exposed children were randomly selected as non-exposed controls (NONEXP-C). Prior to intervention and after 9 school-term months of treatment, general scholastic tests, teacher and parent questionnaires, classroom observations and specific language and literacy tests were administered to the participants. The 9 months assessment reflects the mid-point and the first assessment stage of the overall study. At initial diagnosis and prior to commencement of the interventions, participants with FASD were significantly weaker than non-exposed control children in reading, spelling, addition, subtraction, phonological awareness and other tests of early literacy. Teachers rated a range of adaptive behaviors of children with FASD as significantly worse than non-exposed controls. Mean scholastic and language and literacy scores for all groups showed improvement over baseline scores after 9 months of intervention. The mean test scores of children with FASD remained lower than those of non-exposed controls. Comparison of mean baseline to post-intervention score changes between the LLT, FASD-C and NONEXP-C groups revealed that although there were no significant gains by the LLT intervention group over control groups on the general scholastic assessment battery, significantly greater improvements occurred in the LLT intervention group compared to the FASD-C group in specific categories of language and early literacy. These categories were syllable manipulation, letter sound knowledge, written letters, word reading and non-word reading and spelling. In spite of cognitive and classroom behavioral difficulties, children with FASD from a vulnerable environment demonstrated significant cognitive improvements in specific areas targeted by classroom interventions. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a systematic classroom intervention and resultant cognitive response in children with FASD.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD); fetal alcohol syndrome; education; classroom interventions; South Africa
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is one of the most common preventable causes of developmental disability and is currently one of the most pressing public health concerns in Canada. FASD refers to the range of physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities that an individual may acquire as a result of maternal alcohol consumption. Prenatal exposure to alcohol leads to numerous primary and secondary disabilities in affected children, which can result in poor long-term outcomes. The present paper reviews previous research on the neurobehavioural outcomes of children with FASD, particularly in terms of behavioural, mental health and adaptive outcomes. The role of risk and protective factors on these outcomes and the impact of FASD on the family are also examined. Finally, future directions and implications regarding outcomes research among children with FASD, particularly within a Canadian context, are discussed.
Children; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Neurobehavioural; Outcome
The question of whether children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) exhibit a unique neurocognitive profile has received considerable attention over the past three decades. The identification of a syndrome-specific neurocognitive profile would aid in diagnosing prenatally exposed children with cognitive deficits who do not exhibit clinically discernable physical anomalies. The current review of the literature, therefore, focuses on the studies of higher-order cognitive skills in children with FASDs with a view towards delineating a pattern of cognitive functioning. Researchers have documented that children with FASDs show diminished intellectual functioning, with average IQ scores falling within the borderline to low average ranges. Slow information processing and disturbances of attention have been observed from infancy through adulthood in individuals with FASDs. Clinical and experimental reports on individuals with FASD have documented marked deficits in executive functioning, particularly in tasks that involve holding and manipulating information in working memory. Studies examining specific domains of cognitive functioning such as language, visual perception, memory and learning, social functioning, and number processing in individuals with FASDs have revealed performance decrements associated with increased task complexity. The above findings converge on the conclusion that children with FASDs have a generalized deficit in the processing and integration of information. We recommend the study of developmental trajectories of both elementary and higher-order functions in future research on FASD to elucidate the development of this cognitive profile.
prenatal alcohol exposure; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; neurocognitive profile; developmental trajectories
Drinking during pregnancy raises risks of pregnancy, labor, and delivery complications in mothers and lasting neurological or behavioral consequences in babies. This public health issue has recently attracted the attention of criminal justice (CJ) researchers, as the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) appears to be unusually high among offender populations. Nevertheless, in addition to becoming a main caretaker of individuals with FASDs, the CJ system already may have under its care some of the women at the highest risk of drinking during pregnancy. This study sets out to determine the prevalence, patterns, and correlates of alcohol consumption among women offenders on probation or parole in the United States. Analysis of data collected from seven waves of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004–2008) were performed on women who were under community supervision during the year prior to the survey interview. Results revealed that 1.9% of women of child-bearing ages of 12–44 years in the general population were pregnant, as compared to 4.7% of comparable women under community supervision. Pregnant offenders were more likely to come from minority groups and be socially disadvantaged than their non-CJ-involved counterparts. Alarmingly, they were nearly three times as likely to have engaged in problem drinking (e.g., two drinks a day for a month) than non-CJ-involved women. Negative behavioral consequences resulting from alcohol consumption and concurrent use of other substances were also significantly more pervasive among drinkers under community supervision. Effective prevention and control of the problem requires rethinking the role of corrections systems in health promotion. Concrete recommendations are discussed.
Pregnancy; Drinking; Criminal offenders; Probation; Parole
Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) constitute a special population that may be at particularly high risk for substance use. The purpose of the current study was to estimate the utilization of specialized addiction treatment services (SATS) and the associated cost, as a part of the total cost of health care associated with FASD in Canada.
The current study was a modeling study. Data on SATS by lifetime mental disorder status were obtained from the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Information System (DATIS) in Ontario, Canada for 2010/11. The number of clients with FASD who received SATS in Ontario in 2010/11 was estimated, assuming that approximately 37% (confidence interval: 21.6%-54.5%) of individuals with FASD abuse or are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and that their utilization rate of SATS is the same as those for people with a lifetime mental disorder. The data from DATIS was then extrapolated to the total Canadian population.
The cost of SATS for clients with FASD in Canada in 2010/11 ranged from $1.65 million Canadian dollars (CND) to $3.59 million CND, based on 5,526 outpatient visits and 9,529 resident days. When the sensitivity analysis was performed the cost of SATS ranged from $979 thousand CND to $5.34 million CND.
Special attention must be paid to at-risk groups of individuals such as those with FASD, in order to reduce the likelihood of the development of co-morbid substance abuse problems, and thus, reducing the overall burden on Canadian society.
Fetal alcohol syndrome; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Addiction; Specialized treatment; Utilization; Cost; Canada
To evaluate health professionals' agreement with components of published diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in order to guide the development of standard diagnostic guidelines for Australia.
A modified Delphi process was used to assess agreement among health professionals with expertise or experience in FASD screening or diagnosis. An online survey, which included 36 Likert statements on diagnostic methods, was administered over two survey rounds. For fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), health professionals were presented with concepts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), University of Washington (UW), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), revised IOM and Canadian diagnostic criteria. For partial FAS (PFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), concepts based on the IOM and the Canadian diagnostic criteria were compared.
130 Australian and 9 international health professionals.
Of 139 health professionals invited to complete the survey, 103 (74.1%) responded, and 74 (53.2%) completed one or more questions on diagnostic criteria. We found consensus agreement among participants on the diagnostic criteria for FAS, with the UW criteria most commonly endorsed when compared with all other published criteria for FAS. When health professionals were presented with concepts based on the Canadian and IOM diagnostic criteria, we found consensus agreement but no clear preference for either the Canadian or IOM criteria for the diagnosis of PFAS, and no consensus agreement on diagnostic criteria for ARND. We also found no consensus on the IOM diagnostic criteria for ARBD.
Participants indicated clear support for use of the UW diagnostic criteria for FAS in Australia. These findings should be used to develop guidelines to facilitate improved awareness of, and address identified gaps in the infrastructure for, FASD diagnosis in Australia.
Although the structural phenotype of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is established, prenatal exposure to alcohol may produce a broader spectrum of defects, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Documenting the full spectrum of defects associated with FASD is critical to determining the true incidence of this disorder. We examined 831 children from the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders using a structured protocol for diagnosis of FAS using the cardinal facial and growth features, and assessment of additional structural defects thought to occur more often in children with prenatal alcohol exposure. Subjects were classified as FAS, Deferred (some characteristic features of FAS) or No FAS, Groups were compared on prevalence of additional features and number of additional features observed, stratified by diagnostic category, sex, race and age. Prevalence of most additional features was greatest among subjects with FAS and least among No FAS. A higher frequency of additional features was observed among FAS and Deferred subjects ≥12 years of age than among those under 12. FAS and Deferred Whites had greater frequency of additional features than Cape Colored. Prenatal alcohol exposure may produce a broad spectrum of structural defects that goes beyond FAS with implications regarding the impact of alcohol on the developing fetus, a prerequisite for ultimate prevention of FASD.
fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; fetal alcohol syndrome; dysmorphic features; diagnostic criteria
Accumulating evidence from structural brain imaging studies on individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) has supported links between prenatal alcohol exposure and brain morphological deficits. Although global and regional volumetric reductions appear relatively robust, the effects of alcohol exposure on cortical thickness and relationships with facial dysmorphology are not yet known. The structural magnetic resonance imaging data from 69 children and adolescents with FASD and 58 nonexposed controls collected from 3 sites were examined using FreeSurfer to detect cortical thickness changes across the entire brain in FASD and their associations with facial dysmorphology. Controlling for brain size, subjects with FASD showed significantly thicker cortices than controls in several frontal, temporal, and parietal regions. Analyses conducted within site further revealed prominent group differences in left inferior frontal cortex within all 3 sites. In addition, increased inferior frontal thickness was significantly correlated with reduced palpebral fissure length. Consistent with previous reports, findings of this study are supportive of regional increases in cortical thickness serving as a biomarker for disrupted brain development in FASD. Furthermore, the significant associations between thickness and dysmorphic measures suggest that the severity of brain anomalies may be reflected by that of the face.
cortical thickness; developmental; fetal alcohol exposure; MRI
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is underdiagnosed in Canada. The diagnosis of FASD is not simple and currently, the recommendation is that a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the individual be done. The purpose of this study was to estimate the annual cost of FASD diagnosis on Canadian society.
The diagnostic process breakdown was based on recommendations from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Canadian Guidelines for Diagnosis. The per person cost of diagnosis was calculated based on the number of hours (estimated based on expert opinion) required by each specialist involved in the diagnostic process. The average rate per hour for each respective specialist was estimated based on hourly costs across Canada. Based on the existing clinical capacity of all FASD multidisciplinary clinics in Canada, obtained from the 2005 and 2011 surveys conducted by the Canada Northwest FASD Research Network, the number of FASD cases diagnosed per year in Canada was estimated. The per person cost of FASD diagnosis was then applied to the number of cases diagnosed per year in Canada in order to calculated the overall annual cost.
Using the most conservative approach, it was estimated that an FASD evaluation requires 32 to 47 hours for one individual to be screened, referred, admitted, and diagnosed with an FASD diagnosis, which results in a total cost of $3,110 to $4,570 per person. The total cost of FASD diagnostic services in Canada ranges from $3.6 to $5.2 million (lower estimate), up to $5.0 to $7.3 million (upper estimate) per year.
As a result of using the most conservative approach, the cost of FASD diagnostic services presented in the current study is most likely underestimated. The reasons for this likelihood and the limitations of the study are discussed.
MRI studies, including recent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies, have shown corpus callosum abnormalities in children prenatally exposed to alcohol, especially in the posterior regions. These abnormalities appear across the range of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Several studies have demonstrated cognitive correlates of callosal abnormalities in FASD including deficits in visual-motor skill, verbal learning, and executive functioning. The goal of this study was to determine if inter-hemispheric structural connectivity abnormalities in FASD are associated with disrupted inter-hemispheric functional connectivity and disrupted cognition.
Twenty-one children with FASD and 23 matched controls underwent a six minute resting-state functional MRI scan as well as anatomical imaging and DTI. Using a semiautomated method, we parsed the corpus callosum and delineated seven inter-hemispheric white matter tracts with DTI tractography. Cortical regions of interest (ROIs) at the distal ends of these tracts were identified. Right-left correlations in resting fMRI signal were computed for these sets of ROIs and group comparisons were done. Correlations with facial dysmorphology, cognition, and DTI measures were computed.
A significant group difference in inter-hemispheric functional connectivity was seen in a posterior set of ROIs, the para-central region. Children with FASD had functional connectivity that was 12% lower than controls in this region. Sub-group analyses were not possible due to small sample size, but the data suggest that there were effects across the FASD spectrum. No significant association with facial dysmorphology was found. Para-central functional connectivity was significantly correlated with DTI mean diffusivity, a measure of microstructural integrity, in posterior callosal tracts in controls but not in FASD. Significant correlations were seen between these structural and functional measures and Wechsler perceptual reasoning ability.
Inter-hemispheric functional connectivity disturbances were observed in children with FASD relative to controls. The disruption was measured in medial parietal regions (para-central) that are connected by posterior callosal fiber projections. We have previously shown microstructural abnormalities in these same posterior callosal regions and the current study suggests a possible relationship between the two. These measures have clinical relevance as they are associated with cognitive functioning.
Fetal alcohol (FAS, FASD); Brain; functional MRI (fMRI); resting-state, connectivity; neuropsychological