The FASD MILE-long Invisible Gap

© 2013 Teresa Kellerman

Children and adults who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) have a wide array of abilities and a myriad of different symptoms, depending on the timing and dose of prenatal alcohol exposure. Each individual is affected differently.

The most common symptoms of FASD are:

·  Memory deficits: They may forget rules and consequences

·  Impulsivity: They may act before thinking

·  Lack of good judgment: Impaired ability to make decisions, solve problems, attain goals

·  Emotional/social immaturity: Their psychological age is far below chronological age

The “Invisible Gap” is the difference between their APPARENT ability to function and their ACTUAL ability to function, the difference between their chronological age and their emotional age.

This “Invisible Gap” in children and adults with FASD is a “MILE” long:

Memory deficits


Lack of good judgment

Emotional immaturity

This “Invisible Gap” may be hidden when things are going well, when the child attempts to act his or her age, when they are trying hard to meet everyone else’s high expectations. As stressors creep into the child’s environment or psyche, then the child’s ability to maintain the appearance of being “normal” will falter. The more stressors present, the more we will see behaviors common in a much younger child.

These stressors can be from a multitude of sources and usually include several of the following:

·  environmental (sensory overload, noise or crowds);

·  medical (fatigue, dehydration, hormone changes, coming down with an illness, late or missed medications);

·  psychological (fear, anxiety, disappointment, anger, frustration);

·  dietary (artificial food coloring, MSG, deficiency in carbohydrates);

·  social (bullying, unrealistic expectations, lack of attention, threats of aggression, perceived injustice).

Stressors increase the cortisol and decrease the dopamine in the brain. It follows that effective intervention strategies would decrease the cortisol and increase the dopamine. A balanced brain will result in better behaviors.