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Module 4: FASD Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms: Adults (18+)

As adults, issues and concerns may include:

  • Residential and job placement, job training and support
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Social and sexual exploitation
  • Pregnancy or fathering a child
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Homelessness
  • Substance abuse and mental illness
  • Arrest, incarceration, and other legal problems
  • Violence and abuse

This population's cognitive and behavioral characteristics may propel some of them into the correctional system. Ironically, the structure provided within the correctional setting often provides relief.6 However, the setting may also result in increased victimization and physical harm.

Some adults with an FASD can hold down jobs for many years, graduate from high school and college, and have successful relationships. These adults usually had early intervention, a strong support network, and a great deal of supervision and advocacy in areas that may cause difficulty for them, such as managing money.

Young man and woman hugging and smiling

Even with support, adults with an FASD face many challenges. For example, if a young man with FAS has an IQ of 70 he may not be eligible for the developmental disabilities services offered in a State with a lower threshold. However, the man may have problems with math and money, he may not be able to drive, he may have problems writing, and he might need constant supervision.

Due to the lack of knowledge about FASD, many adults are mistakenly thought to be bad, lazy, or manipulative. The truth is that they often appear more capable than they are. They talk better than they think. If caregivers do not understand this, the inability to follow through might be viewed as willful. But these individuals may be operating at a level well below their age group.

The timeline below depicts the developmental age for various functional areas of a hypothetical 18-year-old. His chronological age does not correspond to his developmental age in these areas. This example represents the kind of variability seen in adolescents with an FASD.

Chart showing developmental age equivalent for an 18-year-old with FAS in the following categories: math skills-age 8, reading comprehension-age 9, social maturity-age 12, reading decoding-age 14, and expressive language-age 23

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