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Secondary Disabilities

Other problems, or secondary disabilities, arise when needs go unmet for children with alcohol-related birth defects.

In a 1996 study of 415 FASD/FAE patients ranging in age from 6 to 51 years, Dr. Ann Streissguth of the University of Washington identified a number of secondary disabilities that a person is not necessarily born with. These include:

  • 90% had mental health problems
  • 80% of those over 21 were dependent on others for daily needs
  • 80% (21 and older) had employment problems
  • 60% (12 and older) were expelled or dropped out of school
  • 60% (12 and older) had trouble with the law
  • 50% (12 and older) inappropriate sexual behavior
  • 50% (12 and older) were incarcerated or confined for mental health reasons
  • 30% (12 and older) had alcohol or drug problems

This study also identified several universal "protective factors" that - if addressed early on and consistently - helped minimize the secondary disabilities.

  • Living in a stable nurturing home for over 72% of life
  • Being diagnosed before the age of six years
  • Never having experienced violence against oneself
  • Staying in each living situation for an average of more than 2.8 years
  • Experiencing a good quality home from age six to twelve years
  • Having applied for and been found eligible for Developmental Disability Services
  • Having a diagnosis of FASD rather than FAE
  • Having basic needs net for at least 13% of life