Day 35 of 99 Days to FASDay: Is a Diagnosis Important?


Day 35 of 99 Days to 9.9 or FASDay is about receiving a diagnosis of FASD and why it’s important.

An article I found, Why is FASD diagnosis so important? posted on Smart Speech Therapy  (June 18, 2014) by Tatyana Elleseff echoed some of the reasons the FASD Network of Southern California did on why it’s important. In the article she outlines the following:

1. For starters it is important for relevant services provision.

—Children with alcohol related deficits “slip between the cracks” when it comes to qualifying for and receiving services (Kjellmer & Olswang, 2012). —Public school professionals commonly report a lack of knowledge of FASD and how to appropriately plan for affected children (Koren, Fantus, & Nulman, 2010).

As a result these children tend to be significantly underserved because their learning and behavioral difficulties are not always recognized and understood by educators (Watson & Westby, 2003).

2. And this is another reason why the correct diagnosis matters!

So often do we hear: “S/he are doing it on purpose, they understand everything, they are just behavioral.” But isn’t behavior a form of communication? And isn’t it possible that behavior difficulties are masking a language impairment?

If we are to assume that “it’s just behavior” then it’s exceedingly easy to engage in the blame game (e.g., blame the child for poor behavior, blame the parents for “poor parenting”, etc) or misdiagnose a child all together with a psychiatric condition (e.g., ADHD, Autism, Oppositional Defiant Disorder) instead of making a correct diagnosis and providing relevant to the child therapy services.

3. It is important to understand that early diagnosis and intervention are positively correlated with better long term outcomes for the children and their families.

Appropriate diagnosis results in the children receiving relevant and targeted interventions, significantly improves their functioning, adaptability, self-awareness and self-esteem not to mention significantly improves parent-child interactions (Streissguth et al 2004).

4. Finally, the quality and type of interventions children with alcohol related disabilities receive truly matter!

This isn’t the matter of one type fits all style of therapy. In-depth knowledge and understanding of alcohol related disabilities is NEEDED in order to plan and implement effective therapy services.

To illustrate, one of the best approaches to date is the neurobehavioral approach which links behavioral symptoms to deficits in brain functionality. Thus the assessing/treating SLP MUST understand what type of brain damage/alteration can occur in the areas of frontal lobe (prefrontal cortex), corpus callosum, basal ganglia, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus as well as the cerebellum in order to understand how this damage can behaviorally, cognitively, and linguistically manifest in children affected by it.

While you can’t cure alcohol related deficits, the children can be taught to successfully compensate for their deficits! Consequently, the first step to successful management of alcohol related deficits is appropriate diagnosis!

2018 Update: A new article FASD: Thirty Reasons Why Early Identification Matters by Dr. Gordon Hodas was just published. The Report states:

Children with a chronic illness or medical disorder can lead meaningful, productive lives.
Early identification promotes such positive outcomes. It opens doors, restores morale, and helps us discover next steps.
For the well being of individual children and their families as well as the larger community,we need to become more aware of FASD and better able to identify it the earlier, the better.

Come back tomorrow for Day 36 and another myth in our 99 day journey to September 9 – FASDay!

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