Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASDs) can affect people in several ways, including hyperactive behavior, concentration issues, and difficulty retaining information.

FASDs are a group of health conditions that can affect a fetus if a person consumes alcohol during pregnancy.

This article explains the behavioral issues that can occur when someone has FASD, alongside tips to cope with them.

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FASDs are a group of health conditions that can occur due to exposure to alcohol before birth. If someone consumes alcohol during pregnancy, it can pass to the fetus through the umbilical cord. This can cause issues for the developing fetus and lead to an FASD after birth.

FASDs can affect each person differently and may lead to both physical and behavioral issues.

The types of FASDs depend on the symptoms an individual experiences and may include:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS): FAS can lead todifficulty learning and retaining information, a short attention span, issues with seeing or hearing, and difficulty with communication and socializing. A person with FAS may also have issues with growth and the central nervous system (CNS), which connects the brain and the spinal cord.
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND): ARND can affect the way a person learns and retains information. This may lead to behavioral issues such as difficulty controlling impulses, trouble concentrating, and a lack of judgment. A person may experience difficulty at school with memory and subjects such as math.
  • Neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (ND-PAE): ND-PAE can lead to behavior issues in children such as severe tantrums, extreme irritability, and a lack of flexibility. It may also involve difficulty with everyday activities such as bathing, getting dressed, and socializing with other children. A child with ND-PAE may also experience trouble retaining and recalling information.
  • Alcohol-related birth abnormalities: These can lead to issues with the kidneys, heart, bones, and hearing.

Several behavioral issues can occur due to FASD, including:

  • difficulty learning new information
  • difficulty remembering and recalling information
  • difficulty switching attention from one task to another
  • issues with communication and developing social skills
  • cognitive issues such as understanding and following directions
  • having severe tantrums, difficulty controlling emotions and impulses
  • mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and conduct disorder
  • difficulty with everyday tasks such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, telling the time, and awareness of personal safety

There is limited research into the strengths of FASD behaviors. However, research from 2023 suggests that people with FASD can be very socially motivated, typically make friends easily, and generally have a very positive disposition.

Other FASD behaviors that can be strengths can include:

  • adaptability
  • resilience
  • persistence
  • kindheartedness
  • generosity
  • being affectionate

Early diagnosis of FASD can help the development of the person with FASD. It can also help the parents or caregivers with strategies to manage FASD behaviors.

A child with FASD may not respond to the typical parenting practices. A person may want to consider parent training or attending local support groups to help them navigate FASD behavioral issues.

It can be helpful to remember that a person with FASD may have some brain-based challenges that are out of their control. Slowing down communication, daily schedules, and reactions to behaviors can help someone with FASD process information.

Some other tips for handling FASD behaviors can include:

  • concentrating on the strengths of the person with FASD
  • being consistent and stable with daily routines, communication, language, and discipline
  • using clear, specific, and positive language
  • finding alternative ways to help a person with FASD learn such as visual aides and music
  • positively reinforcing someone with FASD with frequent praise and incentives
  • repeating language, routines, and discipline continuously
  • staying as calm and patient as possible
  • creating a calm and structured home environment

The following are answers to common questions about FASDs.

What are five signs and symptoms of FASDs?

There are several signs and symptoms of FASDs. Five of these can include:

  • difficulty learning and retaining new information
  • hyperactive behavior and difficulty concentrating
  • trouble controlling emotions and impulses
  • challenges with communication, social skills, and taking direction
  • speech and language delays

Does FASD get worse with age?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FASD behavioral issues typically worsen as a child gets older.

FASD behaviors may also continue into adulthood. However, there is no evidence to suggest whether the behaviors continue to worsen past childhood or continue to stay the same.

Does fetal alcohol syndrome cause violent behavior?

According to the CDC, a person with FASD may experience difficulty controlling their anger and frustration, which can lead to violent and explosive behavior.

A person with FASD may also be vulnerable to developing mental health conditions, such as conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, which can lead to violent and aggressive behavior.

FASDs are a group of health conditions that can occur due to alcohol exposure before birth. They can affect each person differently and may lead to several physical and behavioral issues.

FASD behavioral issues can include difficulty concentrating, difficulty learning and recalling new information, hyperactive behavior, trouble controlling emotions and impulses, and challenges with communication and social skills.

Tips for supporting a person with FASD include

  • creating a calm, secure, and stable home environment
  • remaining patient
  • positively reinforcing a person
  • focusing on their strengths