is not about gaining “head” knowledge – it’s about understanding people as individuals.

In becoming an actively involved adoptive father of two sisters with FAS, I became very knowledgeable on the subject of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. My personal research led me to various resources from university research to clinical therapy to conferences, books, videotapes, DVDs, CDs and conversations. I have read numerous clinical research reports, and have had many conversations with leading therapists, researchers, authors and speakers in the area of fetal alcohol exposure.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a medically diagnosed birth defect caused solely by a birthmother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy, producing irreversible organic damage to the brain and central nervous system of the unborn child. The result is various lifelong emotional and behavioral difficulties as well as learning and developmental disabilities. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is not treatable or curable through drug therapy or surgery.

Of all the substances of abuse, including heroin, cocaine and marijuana, alcohol produces, by far, the most serious neurobehavioral effects in an unborn baby. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the blood-alcohol levels in the mother and unborn baby are approximately equal within minutes after consumption.

Throughout my research I have collected a large amount of data and statistics. Consider the following. On any given day in the United States over 10,000 babies are born. One of these babies is born HIV positive. Three of these babies are born with Muscular Dystrophy. Four of these babies are born with Spina Bifida. Ten of these babies are born with Down Syndrome. And 20 of these babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – more than all the others combined! (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Centers for Disease Control, and National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.)

Although Fetal Alcohol Syndrome does not always cause mental impairment, it results in more cases of mental impairment worldwide than both Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida combined. And it is 100% preventable!

In addition to the immeasurable toll on children and their families, FAS poses extraordinary financial costs to the nation, including the costs of health care, education, foster care, therapy, job training, and general support services for affected individuals. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), the cost to American taxpayers for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is estimated to be $4 billion a year.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is considered a hidden disability. It is seldom identified at birth, early development may follow the normal curve, the children are often attractive and lacking obvious handicaps, and their behaviors are initially seen as “cute.” Because they may appear “normal” and have IQ scores in the average range, students with FAS are often expected to excel in classes that are beyond their ability because of organizational and problem solving deficits. Many times the difficulty is expanded when there is also abuse, neglect, multiple foster homes, adoption breakdowns, school disruption and trouble with the law. Therefore, a very proactive effort needs to be made to teach people with FAS such taken-for-granted functional skills as appropriate social interaction, simple problem solving, and basic decision-making.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is manifested like a random electrical short-circuiting of information and feelings – sometimes the information and feelings are retrievable and sometimes they’re not. As a result, hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsivity, and memory difficulties mark the profiles of individuals with FAS – a virtual “constellation” of learning and behavioral problems. These people are, however, normal in their desire to live, help, and create, although their expressions many times appear abnormal to those around them.

Many people who interact with children and adults with FAS on regular basis, such as parents, teachers and others, describe them as loving, compassionate, artistic, determined, and hopeful. On a personal level, this means that they can have very fulfilling interpersonal relationships and, in many cases, engage in meaningful activities in their local community.

Even though a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome usually means mild to moderate lifelong deficits in cognitive, social, and physical development, there is great hope for these individuals. The fact that they require more structure at work and at home should not preclude them from being given the opportunity to be contributing members of society.

Every child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has the capacity to lead a significant and satisfying life as an adult.