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FASD – the irreversible legacy of alcohol exposure before birth

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) affect 90 – 95% of children placed for adoption and between 65 and 75% of children in foster care. UK charity ‘FASD Trust’ describes effects alcohol has on a baby in the womb:  

Exposing babies in the womb to alcohol can affect their vision, their sleep, their heart, their liver and their immune system. It can supress their immune system, cause speech and language delays, cause impulsivity, memory problems, hyperactivity and lead to inappropriate social behaviour.  

These defects of both the brain and the body exist only because of prenatal exposure to alcohol.  Often the condition goes undiagnosed, or is misdiagnosed, for example as Autism or ADHD, and this can lead to secondary disabilities.  

Holly is seven years old and her brother, Jamie, is eleven. 

They both have FASD, a condition that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

They’ve live with their foster carers, Jenny and Nick in Hampshire.     

“The children came to live with us a few years ago.  They were our first foster children and we were so excited to welcome them to our home and our family. The diagnosis of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) was made, both children showing varying physical, cognitive and neurological effects”

explains Nick.  

“Jenny and I found out about the FASD Trust and sourced training which Blue Sky agreed to fund.  The training was really eye-opening for us. Whereas before we just thought that the kids hadn’t been taught how to do certain things properly by their parents….and that they would change with time….we realised that the kids had irreversible FASD related problems. We realised that no longer would we try and have the children holding their knives and forks in the right hands at every mealtime. As long as they were eating at the table, that was fine!”     


“Jamie is moderately affected by FASD”

explains Jenny.

“He’s an engaging and loving boy and we are seeing more and more of this side of him. We love having him with us and we work with him to help him overcome occasional extreme behaviour. He has sensory issues regarding sounds and can overreact if there is an unexpected loud noise and he has difficulty feeling empathy with others."


“Before he came to live with us, he was regularly in trouble as school for fighting other pupils. He had trouble controlling his emotions although this steadily got better and he’s only had minor scuffles since living with us. He has friends as school and friends living locally which is great! Occasionally, old behaviour surfaces again and May this year was a turbulent time. Nick and I have had many chats with him since and he is now calmer!”  


“He can be clumsy, inattentive, easily distracted and can have a low attention span. We are seeing some improvements in this area with coaching and our encouragement. A major achievement was being selected to represent his school at sprinting and field games. He’s working hard at his football is in the school football team, we’re very proud of the progress he’s made.”  


“Holly’s FASD manifests itself in a number of ways”

explains Nick. 

“She suffers with hyper-sensitivity which causes her to fidget a lot. Clothing can cause issues, particularly harder fabrics and wool, and her level of sensitivity can change from day to day, but we can manage that. We always have a variety of socks available, just in case the ones she has on are irritating her skin.  There’s normally a sock issue moments before we leave for school in the morning! The fidgeting in class has been resolved by her having her own cushion to sit on and, touchingly, if she forgets to take it when she moves chairs, her friends bring it to her!”  


“Like her brother, she’s clumsy and regularly walks into things. When she first came to live with us, we enrolled her in a gymnastics class which, we learnt during our FASD training, is really useful for her balance issue. She’s gained many certificates and is currently at level 3 J. We’re so proud of her progress. The transformation in Holly has been amazing. In her previous school, before coming to live with us, she would just sit in the corner of the class making unintelligible sounds. Now, she’s a real chatterbox with a thirst for learning! She loves doing her homework and reads every single night. She’s a lovely little girl; caring and keen to help around the house with a lovely set of friends both at school and locally, topped off by a cheeky sense of humour!”    

Earlier this year, together with their Blue Sky Supervising Social Worker and the children’s local authority social worker, it was decided Jamie and Holly should be made aware of their FASD condition. In June, we gently explained to them what it means for each of them.  Both have accepted their condition and we have seen no difference in their emotions since then.

Talk to us about the support we offer and the rewards of fostering children with additional needs.