What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe the broad range of conditions . FASD is characterized by difficulties with learning, memory, attention, communication and behaviour, amongst a range of challenges.


How common is FASD?

A population-based estimate of the prevalence of FASD among elementary school students aged 7 to 9 ranges between 2% and 3% in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada. Based on this finding, the Canadian Component of the World Health Organization’s International Study on the Prevalence of FASD released in April 2018 conservatively estimates that more than 1 million Canadians are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.


What are the known causes of FASD?

FASD is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Any alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy passes to the baby through the umbilical cord and may cause behavioural and cognitive deficits in the child.


How can I tell if a child has FASD?

FASD is an “invisible” disability, meaning many children with FASD show no outward signs. The symptoms appear primarily in learning and behaviour.

Recognizable symptoms of FASD may include:

  • Small head size
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behaviour
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech delays
  • Poor memory

Recent research has identified up to 400 health conditions associated with FASD, affecting every system within the body.


What should I do if I suspect something is wrong with my child?

Don’t wait–talk to your doctor about getting your child screened for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Our researchers are working on new screening tools to simplify FASD diagnosis, and enable earlier identification, so recognizing early signs and knowing developmental milestones is important. Early intervention can change outcomes.


Our Focus in FASD

KBHN researchers are investigating ways to identify FASD to fast track children to diagnosis, as well the impact of involving families in early developmental planning for infants and young children showing signs of developmental delay.

  • Epigenetic role in vulnerability to fetal alcohol exposure
  • Multi-Site Imaging Study
  • Eye Tracking as a screening tool for FASD
  • Developmental planning for children in care
  • Strongest Families FASD
  • Strength-based programming for youth with FASD
  • Navigation and Support for Families raising children with FASD


How do I participate in KBHN research?

If you are interested in learning more about our research projects and/or becoming a research participant, visit our Participate page to learn more.