Common Definitions

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Common Definitions

 

Different conditions are subsumed under the umbrella of FASDs, depending on the number and type of symptoms. This list of definitions outlines the most common disorders within this spectrum.

​Term​Definition
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is an umbrella term that encompasses several diagnostic categories related to the adverse effects resulting from in utero exposure to alcohol. The term itself is not a clinical diagnosis. Diagnoses under the FASD umbrella include fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD).
In general, diagnoses under the FASD umbrella involve a range of clinical manifestations, including physical, behavioral, and/or learning problems. Children with any of the FASDs need to be identified, diagnosed, monitored, and referred for appropriate care and services or further evaluations as indicated. Effects related to each of the FASD diagnoses are lifelong and affect not only the child, but also his or her family and the wider community.  
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)FAS represents the most involved end of the FASD spectrum. In other words, FAS describes those people with the greatest alcohol effects, causing signs and symptoms so distinct that the diagnosis is based on special measurements and findings in each of the 3 following areas:
  • Three specific facial abnormalities:
  • smooth philtrum (the area between nose and upper lip)
  • thin upper lip
  • small palpebral fissures (the horizontal eye openings)
  • Growth deficit (lower-than-average height, weight or both)
  • Central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities (structural, neurologic, functional, or a combination of these)
A history of in utero exposure to alcohol is very important in making any FASD diagnosis, although when this information is not available but all 3 other criteria are present, a diagnosis of FAS should still be made.
Partial FAS (pFAS)When a person does not meet the full diagnostic criteria for FAS but has a history of prenatal alcohol exposure, some of the facial abnormalities as well as a growth problem or CNS abnormalities, that person is considered to have partial FAS (pFAS).
Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND)People with ARND do not have abnormal facial features or growth problems but do have problems with how their brain and nervous system were formed as well as how they function. These individuals may have intellectual disabilities, behavior or learning problems, or nerve or brain abnormalities. In particular, a 2011 federally convened committee that reviewed the science noted that these children are most likely to have problems with neurocognitive development, adaptive functioning and behavior regulation.
Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD)​People with ARBD have problems with how some of their organs were formed and/or how they function, including the heart, kidney, bones (possibly the spine), as well as hearing and/or vision. These individuals also may have one of the other FASDs.
Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE)FAE is an outdated term. It was originally applied to adverse birth outcomes linked to prenatal alcohol exposure that did not meet the full diagnosis of FAS (ie, pFAS, ARND, ARBD).
 
The SAMHSA FAS 101 presentation in Powerpoint format provides the latest and most accurate information about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Further information is available through the FASD Center’s Information Resource Center at 1-866-STOPFAS (786-7327) or fasdcenter@samhsa.gov. Additional training may be requested from the FASD Center for Excellence by contacting the Information Resource Center or completing the online form on the Information Resource Center Web site.
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