Canadian FASD Diagnostic Guide

Did you know as of 2015 FASD is now a diagnostic term in Canada?


It is also the diagnostic term used in Australia. Click here for more information. I believe France and South Africa also use FASD.

The following is from the Asante Centre :

Whereas the 2005 guideline identified fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) as an umbrella term capturing specific diagnoses of FAS, pFAS, and ARND, under the 2015 guideline FASD is now a diagnostic term in Canada.

The new two diagnostic terms include:

  1. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder with sentinel facial findings (i.e. short palpebral fissures, smooth philtrum, and thin upper lip, as associated with prenatal alcohol exposure)
  2. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder with no sentinel facial findings

New designation for infants and young children

It has been historically difficult to diagnose infants and young children with FASD as diagnosis requires evaluation of multiple areas of brain functioning, some of which cannot be evaluated until the child reaches school age. This gap prevents some early intervention which is critical for development.

Under the new guideline, infants and young children can be diagnosed with FASD with sentinel facial findings if they display the three facial characteristics associated with prenatal alcohol exposure, as well as have a small head circumference which indicates differences in brain development.

Infants and young children who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for FASD but have confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure and early signs of developmental concerns can be designated as “At risk for neurodevelopmental disorder and FASD, associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.”

This designation is intended to encourage early intervention. However, it is not a diagnosis of FASD. A child who receives this designation should be re-assessed by a multidisciplinary team when he or she reaches school age to determine if he or she now meets the diagnostic criteria for FASD.

New brain domain called affect regulation

There is a newly added tenth brain domain in the 2015 guideline entitled affect regulation. This domain is based on emerging research that evidences individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure are predisposed to certain mental health concerns, irrelevant of other biological or environmental factors.

The affect regulation captures anxiety, depressive, and mood dysregulation disorders. While each can be caused by other factors, they may be considered relevant to prenatal alcohol exposure when seen in combination with other neurodevelopmental areas of FASD.

For information on diagnosis in Canada, CanFASD published
The Caregivers Guide to FASD.

This guide is intended for caregivers (birth parents, kinship caregivers, foster parents, or adoptive parents) of children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol, and who are soon-to-be assessed for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), or have recently been diagnosed with FASD.

If you or a health care professional believe that your child may have FASD due to atypical behaviour and development or confirmed alcohol exposure during pregnancy, and your child has begun their journey towards a diagnosis or has recently received a diagnosis, it is important to know what to expect moving forward.

This guide will inform you of potential signs and symptoms of FASD, how to seek out a diagnosis, what the diagnostic process looks like and what it will tell you, who is involved in the diagnostic process, and what to do after a diagnosis.

Although from 2007, here is a link to the guide So You Have Been Diganosed with FASD Now What?  A Handbook of strategies for youth and young adults. (Copyright © 2007 Boyle Street Education Centre & Agnieszka Olszewska). Copies can be purchased or PDF via the link above.

From the site:

The goal of this handbook is to help young people with FASD learn more about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It also offers strategies that those with FASD can use to better understand themselves, improve relationships, manage feelings, do better in school and live a healthy life. Includes information, strategies, several activities and quizzes. Topics include: understanding different learning styles, developing relationships, understanding sexuality, managing feelings, doing better in school, learning life skills, dealing with police and learning about alcohol.

This page will be updated as new information is discovered. Information provided is not meant to replace medical advice. Always seek out a professional for up to date and accurate information.