By Anne Dachel
This past week, in the midst of my search for the latest story on the explosion in special education in countries around the world, I found this stunning piece from the New York Times on February 6th. The title said it all, Far More U.S. Children than Previously Thought May Have Fetal Alcohol Disorders.
Before I get into the details of the story, let me just say, I could have predicted this was coming. It is one more attempt to blame parents for the disorders now plaguing our children and overwhelming schools.
I’ve compiled a year’s worth of stories on the explosion in special needs kids in schools worldwide, especially the ones who have mental/behavioral health issues. “Better diagnosing” and “greater awareness” will be a hard sell on this one (although a number of stories talk about less stigma more openness about mental illness.)
Something is clearly affecting large numbers of kids. We’re being saturated with news reports on the changes in our schools because of the students who cannot learn in a traditional classroom setting. (I’ve written volumes about the coverage over the last year: more special education services, sensory rooms, flexible seating, more therapists, behavior coaches and school psychologists, yoga, school suspensions, and isolation rooms.)
Educators and medical experts have explanations and none of them have to do with toxic exposures damaging children. Most often cited as the reason for the dysfunctional school population is trauma, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—the bad things that happen to kids at home: abuse, neglect, addicted/mentally ill parents, even a death in the family or parents who divorce.
(There is also blame placed on too much social media, lack of sleep, and bullying.)
NOW enter the latest villain: THE DRINKING MOM!
To those of us in the autism community who’ve watched autism become a normal and acceptable part of childhood, it sounds very familiar. We’ve seen several decades of official research that linked the development of autism to bad things parents do. Autism is associated with:…old moms, fat moms, DRINKING MOMS, smoking moms, moms on anti-depressants, moms who marry old dads, moms who have preemies, moms who have babies too close together, moms who live too close to freeways.
Now the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control are all in the Times warning us that a percentage of the students in our school who can’t behave and who can’t learn are that way because their mothers drank while they were pregnant.
Dr. Susan Astley, director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the study, said this in the Times: ‘When you identify a kid with FASD, you’ve just identified a mom who drank during pregnancy and harmed her child.’
Parents of course would have a lot of reasons to deny this, so it’s probably been overlooked in the past.
“Then there is the stigma that often makes mothers reluctant to acknowledge alcohol consumption.”
“Based on their findings, they estimated conservatively that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affect 1.1 to 5 percent of children in the U.S., up to five times previous estimates. About 1.5 percent of children are currently diagnosed with autism.”
(It’s interesting that a comparison with autism is made here.)
Dr. Howard Taras, who was part of the study and is the physician for the San Diego Unified School District, was quoted on the extent of the damage: ‘If not in one classroom, certainly in another, there’s going to be one or two kids with these problems, but they’re not identified as such.’
We’re told that abnormal facial features can indicate FASD, but some affected children look like regular kids. What educators have to keep in mind is that the child who is disruptive in the classroom isn’t to blame—it was really mom.
One of the study authors is Dr. Christina Chambers, from the University of California—San Diego. She calls FASD ‘completely preventable and one that we are missing. …
‘If it truly is affecting a substantial proportion of the population, then we can do something about it. We can provide better services for those kids, and we can do a better job of preventing the disorders to begin with.’
We now have another answer to why so many students are special needs. As a result, doctors will warn mothers and schools will provide extra help to the victims of this tragedy. I’m sure more research to support these claims will follow. And once again, the powers that be will confuse this tragedy with yet another red herring.
**Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders is big news. Just as I expected, the news about drinking while pregnant harming children was everywhere on February 6th, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about it. Officials had to come up with some explanation for the shocking decline of education, and this was it. CHECK OUT THESE REPORTS FROM MAJOR NEWS OUTLETS.
FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME
Feb, 2018, CBS News: Fetal alcohol cases may be more common than previously thought
The study of four U.S. communities found that at least 1 percent to 5 percent of first-graders had a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.…
The prevalence ranged depending on the community. And when the researchers used a less-strict estimate, the rate went as high as 10 percent in one location. …
"The bottom line is, these are not uncommon disorders," said study leader Christina Chambers, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is an umbrella term that includes fetal alcohol syndrome -- which can be fatal, or cause serious problems with learning and behavior, stunted growth and facial abnormalities. It also includes less-severe learning or behavioral issues that can be traced to a woman's prenatal drinking.
Kids in that latter group might have trouble with schoolwork or poor impulse control, for example. And it can be challenging to pinpoint FASD as the cause -- versus a diagnosis like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),Chambers said.…
In the real world, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are often misdiagnosed as ADHD or another developmental disorder, said Dr. Svetlana Popova, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, Canada. …
One issue, she said, is that general practitioners in most countries never receive the training they need to diagnose an FASD, because it's not covered in medical school.
Feb 6, 2018, ABC News: Fetal alcohol syndrome in children up to 10 times more common than experts thought
Experts previously thought that 1 percent of children are affected by the serious, permanent consequences of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
But they were underestimating it.
A new multisite study released by The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that FASD are up to 10 times more common than they thought – perhaps as high as one in 10 children. ...
They used these data to estimate how many children are affected nationally. A conservative approach suggests that 1 to 5 percent of children are affected; a less conservative approach suggests that 3 to 10 percent are affected. …
With rates of binge drinking soaring among reproductive-age women, it’s a conversation that’s long overdue. According to data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions, women ages 18 to 44 years old are binge drinking significantly more over the 10 years from 2001 to 2002 to 2012 to 2013. In that period, women reporting binge drinking went from 14 to 37 percent. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more alcoholic drinks at a time.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians all agree that there is no “safe” amount of alcohol in pregnancy, and drinking is particularly dangerous to the developing fetus in the first trimester.
Feb 6, 2018, TIME Magazine: Fetal Alcohol Disorder May Be More Common Than Previously Thought
…FASD is an umbrella term for health abnormalities caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb; it includes fetal alcohol syndrome, partial fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder. FASDs are a leading cause of developmental disabilities around the world, and people with these conditions can experience growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities and organ damage. They often have physical, cognitive and social challenges throughout life, and have an increased risk of premature death. …
The authors also cite a documented increase in alcohol use among women between 2001 and 2013, as well as a 2017 study in which 10% of pregnant women reported drinking alcohol (and 3% reported binge drinking) in the last 30 days.
Feb 6, 2018, News4, Oklahoma City: As many as 1 in 20 US kids harmed by alcohol in the womb, study says
More children have been affected by drinking during pregnancy than previously thought, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Up to one in 20 American kids fall somewhere on the spectrum of disorders caused by maternal drinking, according to the study’s more conservative estimate. But that number could be as many as 1 in 10, using another approach outlined in the study.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a group of conditions that may include abnormal growth and facial features, intellectual disabilities and behavioral problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. …“
We have long thought and believed that estimates that we had previously in the US were pretty gross underestimates,” said Christina Chambers, one of the study’s authors and a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. “It’s not an easy disorder to recognize.”
Feb 6, 2018, Forbes: Fetal Alcohol Disorders Up to 10 Times More Common Than Believed
…Up to 10 times more children have disabilities related to fetal alcohol exposure -- drinking during pregnancy -- than previously believed, finds a new study. As many as one in 10 children in some U.S. communities may have some type of disability due to maternal drinking during pregnancy, the research suggests.
Not only does this finding reveal substantial numbers of children with potentially unrecognized disabilities who need help, but it also drives home how widespread disabilities are from drinking during pregnancy—even if it’s not heavy or binge drinking.