Fetal Alcohol Disorders Often Mistaken for ADHD

Posted on July 21st, 2009
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

A new study shows that children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are often initially diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because the two problems can manifest in similar ways, Forbes reports.

The researchers found that children with FASD have more difficulty interpreting social information than children with ADHD, which results in more severe behavioral problems. The study also found that children with FASD have a high risk of psychiatric problems.

Study author Rachel Greenbaum, a clinical psychologist with the Children’s Mental Health Team at Surrey Place Centre in Toronto, Canada, said in a news release that FASD and ADHD can look quite similar behaviorally “with respect to problems with very limited attention, physical restlessness, and extreme impulsivity.”

The study of 33 children with FASD, 30 children with ADHD, and 34 children without disorders focused on their social cognition and abilities to process emotions. Social cognition is the ability to consider and differentiate between the beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and intentions of oneself and others, and emotional processing is the ability to understand and process information related to feelings.

Corresponding author Joanne Rovet, a professor at the University of Toronto and senior scientist in neurosciences and mental health at the Hospital for Sick Children, said that overall, children with FASD have more severe behavioral problems. “In terms of social cognition and emotional processing, the core deficit in FASD appears to be in understanding and interpreting another’s mental states and emotions,” she said.

She also suggested that these problems with social cognition and emotional processing “may underlie that severe conduct problems” seen in children with FASD, including behaviors such as lying, cheating, and stealing.

"It is imperative that these children receive assistance in social and emotional processing domains, specifically targeting interventions to deal with their unique deficits," Rovet said.

 

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