A new resource to help pediatricians identify and manage children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

April 10, 2013

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are a leading known cause of intellectual disability and birth defects and are 100% preventable. FASD is a term used to describe the range of disabilities that may affect children whose mothers consumed alcohol while pregnant. Children exposed to alcohol during fetal development can suffer multiple negative effects, including physical and cognitive deficits. Despite the known adverse effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, children who have FASDs often do not receive a correct diagnosis or referral for diagnostic evaluation. Although there is no cure for FASDs, early identification and diagnosis are essential to providing health, education, and social services that promote optimal well-being.

Primary care providers should consider FASDs when evaluating children with developmental problems, behavioral concerns, or school failure. Like other children with complex medical or behavioral disabilities, children with FASD need a pediatric medical home to provide and coordinate care and ensure necessary medical, behavioral, social, and educational services.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), with support through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) has developed a comprehensive, web-based FASD toolkit ( that helps to raise awareness, promote surveillance and screening, and ensure that all affected children receive appropriate and timely interventions.

The toolkit includes:

  • General information about FASDs including common definitions and frequently asked questions for providers and parents/families
  • Resources for identification, diagnosis and referral including a clinical decision algorithm and provider checklist
  • Patient management resources such as sample care plans, case studies, scripts for addressing parents/families of children diagnosed with an FASD, and information for families and schools
  • Practice management tools like how to build an effective FASD team and billing/coding information
  • Resources for in-depth provider training which includes a recently developed FASD PediaLink course

While this toolkit is not an exhaustive representation of resources for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, it does provide primary care providers a strong foundation to begin educating themselves, their medical home teams, and others regarding the lifelong impact that prenatal alcohol exposure can have on the developmental outcomes of a child. We encourage users of this toolkit to use these resources in their own practice and share them with colleagues so we can continue improving the way we care for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Feedback is welcome and can be submitted to AAP staff Rachel Daskalov ( at any time or through the “Tell Us What You Think” link provided in the toolkit.

  • Learn more about the toolkit here.


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