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Health Care FASD Screening & Diagnosis

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychological Association (APA) and is currently in its fourth edition, which was published in 1994. A text revision was published in 2000 and the next edition of the DSM is due to be published in 2013. The DSM organizes mental disorders into categories and describes the associated symptoms. Mental health professionals use the DSM to diagnose patients with the appropriate disorder.

Currently, FASD does not appear in the DSM, but it is possible it will be included in the fifth edition. In order for FASD to be included, the APA would need to add a new category for disorders caused by prenatal exposure to substances. Inclusion in the DSM would be beneficial to the FASD involved community for several reasons. Inclusion would: Bring greater attention and understanding from professionals about FASD. Increase the understanding of the prevalence of FASD Lead to accurate diagnosis and more diagnostic clinics Promote research leading to more appropriate intervention, treatment, and medication options Aid in the prevention of FASD Even though the exact diagnoses included in the FASD umbrella are not in the DSM, that does not mean that an individual with FASD cannot receive another diagnosis from the DSM. One thing the DSM includes is a category for physical disorders relevant to the individual, and this is where an FASD would be noted. For example, if an individuals IQ is below 70 they would receive a diagnosis of mental retardation. If that same individual already has a diagnosis of an FASD, then that diagnosis would be listed as the physical disorder relevant to the case.

For more information, visit the Come Over to FAS website.

Lots of our kids get multiple mental health diagnoses before getting diagnosed on the fetal alcohol spectrum. Thats because not all mental health professionals ask about prenatal alcohol and drug exposure on their intake forms. They miss a major cause of the behaviors and mental health challenges. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are considered medical conditions, not mental health conditions, so physicians need to diagnose them, versus psychologists who diagnose mental health conditions. That results in a lot of frustration for some of us parents until we finally figure out that prenatal alcohol exposure is the underlying problem. -Shelia, parent