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1.  Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: development of consensus referral criteria for specialist diagnostic assessment in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:178.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is known to be under-recognised in Australia. The use of standard methods to identify when to refer individuals who may have FASD for specialist assessment could help improve the identification of this disorder. The purpose of this study was to develop referral criteria for use in Australia.
An online survey about FASD screening and diagnosis in Australia, which included 23 statements describing criteria for referral for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and FASD based on published recommendations for referral in North America, was sent to 139 health professionals who had expertise or involvement in FASD screening or diagnosis. Survey findings and published criteria for referral were subsequently reviewed by a panel of 14 investigators at a consensus development workshop where criteria for referral were developed.
Among the 139 health professionals who were sent the survey, 103 (74%) responded, and 90 (65%) responded to the statements on criteria for referral. Over 80% of respondents agreed that referral for specialist evaluation should occur when there is evidence of significant prenatal alcohol exposure, defined as 7 or more standard drinks per week and at least 3 standard drinks on any one day, and more than 70% agreed with 13 of the 16 statements that described criteria for referral other than prenatal alcohol exposure. Workshop participants recommended five independent criteria for referral: confirmed significant prenatal alcohol exposure; microcephaly and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 2 or more significant central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 3 characteristic FAS facial anomalies; and 1 characteristic FAS facial anomaly, growth deficit and 1 or more CNS abnormalities.
Referral criteria recommended for use in Australia are similar to those recommended in North America. There is a need to develop resources to raise awareness of these criteria among health professionals and evaluate their feasibility, acceptability and capacity to improve the identification of FASD in Australia.
PMCID: PMC4123492  PMID: 25005425
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Referral; Consensus
2.  Recommendations from a consensus development workshop on the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:156.
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.
PMCID: PMC3849849  PMID: 24083778
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Diagnosis; Consensus
3.  The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency-Short Form is reliable in children living in remote Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:135.
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.
PMCID: PMC3844452  PMID: 24010634
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
4.  Development of a reliable questionnaire to assist in the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:33.
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.
PMCID: PMC3680181  PMID: 23496974
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
5.  A modified Delphi study of screening for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:13.
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.
PMCID: PMC3583688  PMID: 23347677
6.  Health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:69.
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.
PMCID: PMC3416706  PMID: 22697051
7.  Systematic review of interventions for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 
BMC Pediatrics  2009;9:35.
Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) may have significant neurobehavioural problems persisting into adulthood. Early diagnosis may decrease the risk of adverse life outcomes. However, little is known about effective interventions for children with FASD. Our aim is to conduct a systematic review of the literature to identify and evaluate the evidence for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for children with FASD.
We did an electronic search of the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CINAHL and ERIC for clinical studies (Randomized controlled trials (RCT), quasi RCT, controlled trials and pre- and post-intervention studies) which evaluated pharmacological, behavioural, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychosocial and educational interventions and early intervention programs. Participants were aged under 18 years with a diagnosis of a FASD. Selection of studies for inclusion and assessment of study quality was undertaken independently by two reviewers. Meta-analysis was not possible due to diversity in the interventions and outcome measures.
Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria. Methodological weaknesses were common, including small sample sizes; inadequate study design and short term follow up. Pharmacological interventions, evaluated in two studies (both RCT) showed some benefit from stimulant medications. Educational and learning strategies (three RCT) were evaluated in seven studies. There was some evidence to suggest that virtual reality training, cognitive control therapy, language and literacy therapy, mathematics intervention and rehearsal training for memory may be beneficial strategies. Three studies evaluating social communication and behavioural strategies (two RCT) suggested that social skills training may improve social skills and behaviour at home and Attention Process Training may improve attention.
There is limited good quality evidence for specific interventions for managing FASD, however seven randomized controlled trials that address specific functional deficits of children with FASD are underway or recently completed.
PMCID: PMC2698825  PMID: 19463198
8.  International survey of diagnostic services for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:12.
Early diagnosis and intervention for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) reduces the risk of developing a range of secondary social, emotional and behavioural problems and provides an opportunity for prevention of further alcohol exposed pregnancies. The objective of this study was to describe specialist clinical service provision for the diagnosis and assessment of children exposed to alcohol in pregnancy.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnostic clinics were identified through literature and internet searches. Clinics were sent a questionnaire asking for information on the clinic population, clinic staff, assessment process and other services provided.
Questionnaires were completed for 34 clinics: 29 were in North America, 2 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1 in South America. No clinics were identified in Asia or Australasia. There was a variety of funding sources, services offered, clinic populations, staff and methods of assessment. Thirty-three clinics had a multi-disciplinary team. In 32 clinics, at least one member of the team had specialist training in assessment of FASD. Neurobehavioural assessment was completed in 32 clinics. Eleven clinics used more than one set of diagnostic criteria or an adaptation of published criteria.
Diagnostic services are concentrated in North America. Most responding clinics are using a multidisciplinary approach with neurobehavioural assessment as recommended in published guidelines. Agreement on diagnostic criteria would enable comparison of clinical and research data, and enhance FASD research particularly for intervention trials.
PMCID: PMC2377245  PMID: 18412975

Results 1-8 (8)