Some children diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are “alcohol babies,” according to Ira Chasnoff, a Chicago pediatrician. Of 156 foster children referred for behavior disorders — most diagnosed with ADHD — 81 percent had fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), he found.
ADHD diagnoses have increased by 42 percent in 12 years, writes Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.
Unlike children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, which is the most severe condition on the spectrum, those with other types of FASD may not have facial anomalies. Thus, the issue may go unnoticed by physicians for years.
“Many alcohol babies will look normal, so no one thinks of doing the toxicology,” Chasnoff said. Nationally, about 20 percent of women drink during pregnancy, but only about 3.6 percent of children have been diagnosed with FASD.
Of course, kids who’ve ended up in foster care are much more likely to have heavy-drinking mothers.
“About 74 percent of children with FASD do meet criteria for ADHD,” Chasnoff said, “but, because of all the neurochemistry changes from the alcohol, it’s a different kind of ADHD” and requires different treatment and medications.
Years ago, I visited a rehab program for drug-addicted mothers and their children. A staffer told me that “crack babies” get better. “Fetal alcohol babies” do not, she said. They suffer lifelong learning and behavioral disabilities.