About Us Home

Diagnosing fetal alcohol syndrome disorder

Diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) requires a specialist team and a specific diagnostic tool.

The diagnostic FASD team

There are relatively few medical professionals in Australia currently diagnosing conditions falling under the umbrella of FASD. Due to the complexity and the range of dysfunction related to prenatal alcohol exposure, a multidisciplinary team is needed for accurate and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment recommendations. The assessment process begins with recognising the need for diagnosis and ends with implementing appropriate recommendations.

The core team may vary according to the specific context, but ideally it should consist of the following professionals:

  • Coordinator for case management (e.g. nurse, social worker)
  • Physician specifically trained in diagnosis
  • Psychologist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech/language pathologist.

Additional members may include drug and alcohol counsellors, childcare workers, cultural interpreters, mental health workers, parents or caregivers, probation officers, psychiatrists, teachers, vocational counsellors, nurses, geneticists or dysmorphologists, neuropsychologists and family therapists. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of assessment and diagnosis, team members may be based in different geographic areas, so collaboration via telecommunications mechanisms may be necessary (Chudley et al 2005).

Back to top

Adult FASD Identification Tool

The FASD Adult Identification Tool has been developed by the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association (rffada). This is a short non-medical identification tool that provides information on a person's history, signs and symptoms that may indicate FASD. It's important to recognise that screening and assessment for FASD are emerging fields, and it's very difficult to make a definitive diagnosis of FASD in adulthood. Internationally, adult diagnosis of FASD requires the input of a multi-disciplinary team and may still not result in a definitive diagnosis (Gelb & Rutman 2011).

Back to top

Find out more

The Department of Health and Ageing has asked the FASD Collaboration, led by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, to prepare Australian clinical guidelines for diagnosing FASD. These guidelines should be available in 2013.

Back to top