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Treatment for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Protective Factors Can Lessen Secondary Conditions


Updated July 17, 2014

Treatment for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

There is no cure or treatment for the disabilities of fetal alcohol syndrome but there are certain protective factors that can be implemented to lessen or prevent the development of secondary conditions associated with FAS.

There is no medication or treatment that will reverse the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome and the other disorders associated with alcohol-related birth defects. There is no treatment to reverse or change the physical features or brain damage associated with maternal alcohol use during the pregnancy.

But the many secondary conditions that are often developed by individuals with FAS can be prevented by implementing what the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities calls "protective factors."

These protective factors have been found to benefit people who have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders:

Early Diagnosis

Children who are diagnosed early have more positive outcomes that those who are not. The earlier a FAS child is placed in appropriate educational classes and given essential social services, the more improved the prognosis.

Early diagnosis also helps family members and teachers understand the reactions and behavior of the FAS child, which can differ widely from other children in the same situations.

Special Education and Social Services

Research has found that fetal alcohol syndrome children who receive special education designed for their specific needs and learning ability are more likely to achieve their developmental and educational potential. Because FAS children can exhibit a wide range of severity of symptoms, individualized educational programs are important.

It is also helpful if FAS children and their family receive social services -- such as respite care, stress management training or behavioral management training -- have more positive outcomes compared with families who do not receive those kinds of services.

Nurturing Environment

All children benefit from a loving, nurturing and stable home life. But children with fetal alcohol syndrome have been found to be more sensitive to disruptions, transient lifestyles and harmful relationships. To prevent the secondary conditions associated with FAS, children who have fetal alcohol syndrome need support from family and the community.

Absence of Violence

Violence in the lives of children with fetal alcohol syndrome can have significant influence on their likelihood of developing behavior, legal and living problems later in life. Studies have found that FAS children who live in stable and non-abusive homes are much less likely to develop secondary conditions.

The same is true for FAS children who become involved in youth violence. Children who are exposed to violence, in any form, are much more likely to have additional problems in their lives.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "Protective Factors for Children with FAS" 2 May 2006.

University of Virginia Health System. "High-Risk Newborn." Accessed July 2008.

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