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Skip Navigation LinksCurriculum for Addiction Professionals > Competency 2: Identification of FASD and Diagnosis of FAS > 7. Signs and Symptoms of FASD That May Be Confused with Other Disorders

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Competency 2: Identification of FASD and Diagnosis of FAS

Signs and Symptoms of FASD That May Be Confused with Other Disorders

Because diagnosing an FASD is so difficult, many individuals with an FASD are diagnosed and treated for individual symptoms or conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, rather than an FASD. A co-occurring disorder may be noted and the prenatal alcohol exposure may be missed. Co-occurring disorders with an FASD may include:

Despondent boy at school desk

If an FASD is not recognized, misdiagnoses are common. This problem often occurs with adolescents and adults. Signs and symptoms of FASD that may be missed or attributed to other causes include:

  • Attention problems
  • Bonding problems
  • Feeding problems
  • Delayed development
  • Speech and hearing deficits
  • Vision problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor coordination
  • Learning problems
  • Memory lapses
  • Clumsiness
  • Temper tantrums
  • Disobedience

Identifying alcohol exposure as a problem can help in choosing appropriate interventions. For example, medications that are used to treat attention deficits may not be effective in persons with an FASD if the medication is used for a chemical imbalance and the deficits are caused by structural brain damage. In addition, seemingly defiant behavior may be caused by frustration in not understanding directions. Persons with an FASD often have trouble following directions, especially when multiple steps are involved.

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