'Beemer's' permanent hangover
Small amounts of alcohol can hurt
Teachers and professionals working with children and adults with FAS and FAE can receive information on alcohol effects and intervention strategies at workshops scheduled through Fasstar Enterprises:
Any alcohol can cause hidden troubles
Brenden "Beemer" Williams, 3 is one of 50,000 children born each year with fetal alcohol effects. His adoptive mother worris about his temper and lack of impuse control.
They look so normal, these children with fetal alcohol effects.
But their brains are different.
They can't seem to concentrate. They have a hard time telling right from wrong. They don't learn the way other kids do.
And they get in so much trouble.
"Fetal alcohol effects is worse than fetal alcohol syndrome," says Tucson psychologist Patricia Tanner Halverson, who for eight years has worked with children damaged prenatally by alcohol. "They get in more trouble. In some ways, a diagnosis of FAE is more damning than a diagnosis of FAS."
It is believed that 50,000 children are born with FAE every year in the United States.
"The child looks normal, but isn't," Tanner Halverson said. "They don't see cause and effect. They don't learn from past experiences. They get arrested and get in all kinds of trouble."
In general, FAE babies are born to women who drink less than women who give birth to children with FAS. FAE babies usually do not have the facial features associated with FAS children. But they often have the same problems, and very little help is available for them.
Pam Phipps is research manager of the Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit at the University of Washington, which has studied people with alcohol-related birth defects for 25 years.
"If you are a child and you have FAS," Phipps said, "you are probably going to get help. But if you have FAE, you don't get anything. You just slip through the cracks. You're treated like a normal person, but you aren't."
Nearly all people with FAE have mental health problems, and most have trouble with the law.
But locally and nationally, some physicians have stopped diagnosing FAE.
"There clearly is such a thing as FAE, but I don't apply that label to individuals," said Dr. Chris Cunniff, a geneticist and pediatrician at University Medical Center. "We don't use a label like FAE. We might use 'Possible FAE.'"
Cunniff said there are too many variables to diagnose FAE.
"There may be a child who is developmentally delayed and their mom drank, but I'm not sure if they're FAE or not," Cunniff said. "It really becomes difficult to sort out what alcohol's contribution is."