Lisa's Holistic Rehab

        Occupational Therapy and Neurofeedback Inc.

  Rehabilitate your Brain

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), first identified in 1973,  is an umbrella term that describes a broad spectrum of cognitive, verbal, social and emotional deficits in children resulting from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In Canada it is estimated that 9 cases per 1,000 births have a FASD (Health Canada, 2006; Public Health Agency of Canada, 2005)


It causes brain damage and children are delayed in reaching developmental milestones.  Clinically, these children present with difficulties in the following areas: 


  • learning
  • social and emotional development attention
  • auditory processing
  • receptive and expressive language
  • problem solving
  • executive functioning
  • working memory
  • self-regulation
  • sensory processing
  • academic achievement
  • understanding rules, cause and effect
  • sensory processing disorder


Dealing with a loved one with FASD can be challenging and most resources encourage a compensatory approach such as adapting the environment and using strategies to help the person function; focus on early intervention, daily routines, applying simple rules, using concrete language, or using a rewards system. Also families will be encouraged to place the child in the required special education classes and proper social services to better meet their needs (CDC).


There have been 8 studies of interventions since 2006 that have been shown to be effective but they are not readily available in each community.  The good news is that it means that the FASD brain is plastic and can take in new information.  This opens the door to many other treatments that can improve neuroplasticity which means an improvement in the quality of life. 


OT’s can also offer some of the evidence based interventions already documented as well as new innovative treatments that encourage neuroplasticity of the FASD brain by drawing from their wide medical rehabilitation background, knowledge of sensory integration therapy and from pulling from the literature of other interventions applied to others with sensory processing disorder. 


Lisa's Holistic Rehab is dedicated to implementing a rehabilitative program for you or your loved one with a FASD. 









Blackburn, C., Carpenter, B., & Egerton, J. (2012) Educating Children and Young People With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.   New York, NY:  Routledge.


Health Canada. (2006). It's your health: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, minister of health. Retrieved from Health Canada website:  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/diseases-maladies/fasd-etcaf-eng.php   


Jirikowic, T., Kartin, D., & Olson, H. (2008).  Children with fetal alcohol spectrum, disorders: A descriptive profile of adaptive function.  Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(4), 238-248.


Public Health Agency of Canada. (2005). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) : a framework for action. Ottawa, Ontario.  Available online at: http://www.publichealth.gc.ca/fasd


Wells, A. M., Chasnoff, I. J., Schmidt, C. A., Telford, E., & Schwartz, L. D. (2012). Neurocognitive habilitation therapy for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: An adaptation of the Alert Program.   American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, 24–34.

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