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Born Addicted To Alcohol Essay, Research Paper

There are different characteristics that accompany FAS in the

different stages of a child’s life. “At birth, infants with intrauterine

exposure to alcohol frequently have low birth rate; pre-term delivery; a

small head circumference; and the characteri stic facial features of the

eyes, nose, and mouth” (Phelps, 1995, p. 204). Some of the facial

abnormalities that are common of children with FAS are: microcephaly,

small eye openings, broad nasal bridge, flattened mid-faces, thin upper

lip, skin folds at

the corners of the eyes, indistinct groove on the upper lip, and an

abnormal smallness of the lower jaw (Wekselman, Spiering, Hetteberg,

Kenner, & Flandermeyer, 1995; Phelps, 1995). These infants also display

developmental delays, psychomotor retardatio n, and cognitive deficits.

As a child with FAS progresses into preschool physical, cognitive

and behavioral abnormalities are more noticeable. These children are not

the average weight and height compared to the children at the same age

level. Cognitive manifestations is another problem with children who have

FAS. “Studies have found that preschoolers with FAS generally score in

the mentally handicapped to dull normal range of intelligence” (Phelps,

1995, p. 205). Children with FAS usually h ave language delay problems

during their preschool years. Research has also shown that these children

exhibit poorly articulated language, delayed use of sentences or more

complex grammatical units, and inadequate comprehension (Phelps, 1995).

There are many behavioral characteristics that are common among children

with FAS. The most common characteristic is hyperactivity (Phelps, 1995).

“Hyperactivity is found in 85% of FAS-affected children regardless of IQ”

(Wekeselman et al., 1995, p. 299 ). School failure, behavior management

difficulties, and safety issues are some of the problems associated with

hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. Another behavioral

abnormality of with children with FAS, is social problems. “Specific

diffic ulties included inability to respect personal boundaries,

inappropriately affectionate, demanding of attention, bragging, stubborn,

poor peer relations, and overly tactile in social interactions” (Phelps,

1995, p. 206). Children are sometimes not diagnosed with FAS until they

reach kindergarten and are in a real school setting. School-aged children

with FAS still have most of the same physical and mental problems that

were diagnosed when they were younger. The craniofa cial malformations is

one of the only physical characteristic that diminishes during late

childhood (Phelps, 1995).

“Several studies have evaluated specific areas of cognitive

dysfunction in school-age children exposed prenatally to alcohol.

Researchers have substantiated: (a) short term memory deficits in verbal

and visual material; (b) inadequate processing of inf ormation, reflected

b sparse integration of information and poor quality of responses; (c)

inflexible approaches to problem solving; and (d) difficulties in

mathematical computations” (Phelps, 1995 p. 206).

The behavioral manifestations of a child with FAS during the early

years of life are still apparent in children who are in grade school.

Hyperactivity is still the most common characteristic portrayed by these

children. Some of the descriptions used to

explain these school-aged children’s behaviors include: distractible,

impulsive, inattentive, uncooperative, poorly organized, and little

persistence toward task completion (Phelps, 1995).

As a child reaches puberty and develops into an adult, some of the

physical, mental and behavioral characteristics change. These adolescents

begin to gain weight, but still remain short and microphalic (Phelps,


Cognitive abilities of children with FAS continue to be low

through adolescence and adulthood. Low Academic performance scores of

adolescents and adults are persistent throughout their lives. Many

cognitive tests have been done on adolescent/adults wi th FAS, and each of

them have found deficiencies in mathematics and reading comprehension

(Shelton & Cook, 1993).

The behavioral manifestations of adolescents and adults with FAS

continue to concentrate around the problem of hyperactivity.

Inattentiveness, distractibility, restlessness , and agitation are the

main behaviors stem from hyperactivity. “Vineland Adap tive Behavior

Scales results suggest that communication and socialization skills average

around the seven year old range”(Phelps, 1995, p. 207).

The prevalence of children with FAS is on the rise. More than

ever, children are being diagnosed with FAS. Better techniques and

knowledge by physicians are accountable for the increase. Physicians are

diagnosing more babies today with FAS, because th ey have more knowledge

and resources to evaluate the children at risk. FAS has no racial

barriers and has been reported by variable ages from neonatal to young

adult (Becker, Warr-Leeper, & Leeper, 1990). Estimates in the United

States of people with FA S vary from 2 live births per 1,000 to 1 per 750

(Shelton & Cook, 1993). “In a medical review of 5602 women, six instances

of FAS were identified among 38 children of alcohol abusing women.

Although 22 of the 38 were traced at follow-up, the outcome fo r the 6 FAS

cases per se was not specified. Nevertheless, 18 of 22 children of the

alcohol-abusing women were found to be in state hospitals” (Emhart,

Greene, Sokol, Martier, Boyd, & Ager, 1995, p.1550). For a doctor to

identify a child as having FAS, he/she must have the proper education. A

test to see if a child has a central nervous system dysfunction or growth

deficiency is not enough for a reliable diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis

would also involve a facial phenotype study (Astley & Clarren, 1 995).

The Southwestern Native Americans have the highest incidence of FAS in the

United States (Shelton & Cook, 1993). “Native Americans are three times

as likely as Caucasians to produce FAS children” (Shelton & Cook, 1993, p.

45). Tribes that have a loose social organization reflect a higher rate

of FAS compared to a structured organization because the structured

organization views a alcoholic female in the tribe as socially

unacceptable (Shelton & Cook, 1993). More cases of FAS are being

diagnosed , but there is many children who slip through the cracks and do

not receive the support that is needed.

There are few interventions and programs to help children that are

affected by FAS. “Most states fail to identify FAS program coordinators,

it is difficult to ascertain respective program parameters” (Shelton &

Cook, 1993, p. 45). Many children with FAS are living with an alcoholic

parent. Children of alcoholics are at greater risk for developing social

and emotional problems that need intervention options so they do not

follow in their parents footsteps and become alcoholics (Wekselman et al.,

199 5). “Even though public schools are attempting to work with FAS, the

bottom line is that more research needs to be done on treating FAS”

(Shelton & Cook, 1993, p.46).

Educators and administration personnel working in the school

system should be knowledgeable about FAS and the different age

characteristics, degrees of incidences , and interventions that are

available to their students. All children with FAS are at ri sk for

failure in school and in every day life. With proper diagnosis and

treatment that is available, some of these failures will be avoided.

The main element that is causing FAS is addiction. Children with

FAS did not have the choice of saying no and have to live with their

mothers decision to drink every day of their lives. Something needs to be

done with mothers who have babies that are ad dicted at birth. Laws and

other regulations will probably not solve the problem, but make it more

complex. A mother shouldn’t have a child if she has an addiction problem.

Woman should be able to receive free abortions if they are addicts and

don’t wan t to quit drinking during their pregnancy. A child should never

be born with fetal alcohol syndrome.


Astley, S. J., & Clarren, S. K. (1995). A fetal alcohol syndrome screening tool. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Reearch. 19, 1565-1571.

Becker, M., Warr-Leeper, G. A., Leeper, H. A. (1990). Fetal alcohol syndrome: a description of oral motor, articulatory, short-term memory, grammatical, and semantic abilities. Journal of Communication Disorders. 23, 97-124.

Ernhart, C. B., Greene, T., Sokol, R. J., Martier, S., Boyed, T. A., Ager, J. (1995). Neonatal diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome: not necessarily a hopeless prognosis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 19, 1550-1557.

Phelps, L. (1995). Psychoeducational outcomes of fetal alcohol syndrome. School Psychology Review. 24, 200-211.

Shelton, M., Cook, M. (1993). Fetal alcohol syndrome: facts and prevention. Preventing School Failure. 37, 44-46.

Wekselman, K., Spiering, K., Hetteberg, C., Kenner, C., Flandermeyer, A. (1995). Fetal alcohol syndrome from infancy through childhood: a review of the literature. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 10, 296-303.

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