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Common difficulties & tips

Alcohol use during pregnancy can damage the structure of any part of the brain. The functional impairment can be classified within 10 neurodevelopmental domains. The diagnosis of FASD requires severe impairment in at least 3 of these domains. The following information links these 10 domains to common difficulties seen in people with FASD, and provides tips for helping to improve their skills and manage daily activities.

Brain structure & neurology

Brain structure and neurology includes:

  • abnormal head circumference
  • structural brain abnormalities
  • seizure disorder not due to known postnatal causes
  • significant neurological diagnoses otherwise unexplained

Motor skills

Motor skills include:

  • fine motor skills (manual dexterity, precision)
  • gross motor skills (balance, strength, coordination, ball skills and agility)
  • graphomotor skills (handwriting)
  • visuo-motor integration


Cognition includes:

  • IQ
  • verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills
  • processing speed
  • working memory


Language includes:

  • expressive skills
  • receptive skills

Academic achievement

Academic achievement includes skills in:

  • reading
  • mathematics
  • literacy (including written expression and spelling)


Memory includes:

  • overall memory
  • verbal memory
  • visual memory


Attention has several components:

  • Selective attention (i.e. focusing on a particular stimuli)
  • Divided attention (i.e. attending to 2 or more stimuli at the same time)
  • Alternating attention (i.e. switching focus from one stimuli to another)
  • Sustained attention (i.e. focusing for a long period of time and with resistance to distractions).

Executive function, including impulse control and hyperactivity

Executive function refers to a set of higher-level skills involved in organising and controlling one’s own thoughts and behaviours in order to fulfil a goal with maximum efficiency.

Affect regulation

Affect regulation includes mood and anxiety disorders.

Adaptive behaviour, social skills, or social communication

Adaptive behaviour is defined as the life skills which enable an individual to live independently in a safe and socially responsible manner, and how well they cope with everyday tasks.

NOFASD fact sheets

Visit NOFASD Australia for a series of fact sheets for parents and carers

These cover topics such as characteristics across the lifespan, impulse control, information processing, memory, patterns and connections, sensory issues and attention, sleeping, and eating.