Understanding Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): a Multidisciplinary Assessment Team Model of Care for those referred to a FASD Assessment clinic and the Implications for Intervention and Education about the impact of FASD on young people

Nadishani (Nadi) Fernando1

1Children’s Hospital At Westmead, WESTMEAD, AUSTRALIA

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) occurs in all parts of Australian society and is a permanent acquired brain injury caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  The rates of FASD within the community are estimated at 2% of the population with impairments, which are lifelong. These include impairments which can affect motor skills, language skills, academic achievement, memory, attention, affect regulation and adaptive behaviour (including social skills). Therefore, given the diffuse nature of functional impairments, this is a diagnosis of relevance to all allied health professionals.

Method: At the Children’s Hospital at Westmead CICADA Centre, a multidisciplinary assessment team including an Occupational Therapist, Speech Pathologist, Clinical Psychologist and the recent addition of a Social Worker work together with a Paediatrician provide a state-wide assessment service for young people (aged 0-18) referred following concerns surrounding the impact of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  We are in the process of assessing clinical data of patients that have presented to our service and will be using case examples to outline and illustrate the unique profiles of young people diagnosed with FASD.

Results: Between January 2018 to December 2018, ~23 young people (aged 0-17 years) received a diagnosis of FASD following a multidisciplinary diagnostic assessment.  Each child’s neurodevelopmental was assessed by a multidisciplinary team, and as part of our presentation, we will provide data of the assessments conducted through The Children’s Hospital at Westmead FASD Assessment Service during 2018.   Analysis of this data is currently being finalised, however, results will be provided at the time of presentation.  In reporting these results, we will provide information on the range of assessments used within a FASD assessment team, and recommendations for intervention to improve functional abilities.

Discussion: This presentation will provide information on the diagnostic process (including how to apply the Australian FASD Diagnostic Guidelines) and functional impacts of FASD relevant to all allied health professionals.  In addition, we aim to provide information on the rate and range of impairments seen within the FASD population, and increase understanding of intervention approaches that can be utilised when working with young people with FASD and their families.


Nadishani Fernando is a Clinical Psychologist who currently works for the Adolescent Medicine Unit for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, where she contributes to the CICADA Centre (Care and Intervention for Children and Adolescents Affected by Drugs and Alcohol) and the Complex Adolescent Clinic. She is passionate about working with adolescents, particularly those from vulnerable backgrounds (e.g. indigenous, refugee, and culturally and linguistically diverse populations, and those affected by complex medical conditions and trauma).

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