Skip to content

Language Development of Children With FASD

January 15, 2014

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a pattern of conditions that SLPs are bound to encounter during their careers; it is the leading cause of developmental disability in Canada, affecting nine of every thousand children.  Many sectors and disciplines of society may be needed to provide services to persons with FASD, speech-language pathology being one of them. (PHAC, 2012)

An article was published recently in the Canadian Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology that described the language profile you may expect from school-aged children with FASD.  Read it here.

Firstly, one must recognize that “FASD” is not a medical diagnosis in itself, but rather it has many manifestations, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), partial FAS (pFAS), and alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder (ARND) or birth defects (ARBD) (PHAC, 2012).  As with any other umbrella of diagnoses, we can’t expect there to be uniform signs and symptoms.

The study, conducted by Winnipeg team of two SLPs and an epidemiologist, looked at CELF-4 Core Language Index scores from 124 children, age 5 – 18.  Note that no participants had an FAS diagnosis.  Two-thirds of the group received a severe rating, one-tenth both for moderate and mild, and 14% received an average rating.   The researchers also found a difference between age groups; the youngest children (5 – 8 years) were more likely to have a near-average score in individual test categories, there was a drop in scores around age 9, followed by relatively higher scores thereafter.  Males and females were not significantly different, both within and between the diagnostic categories.  The children with a pFAS diagnosis received lower scores than the ARND, but they were not significantly different, which the researchers suggests for further exploration (Proven, Ens & Beaudin, 2014).

Summary points from the article:

  • 80% of children with FASD in the sample had a language impairment; nearly 70% were severe
  • Only 33% of the children received intervention from an SLP, suggesting that SLPs could play a bigger role, along with more typical intervention for attention, sleep problems, and behaviour.
  • Age is a factor; there may be less severe impairment at younger age, affecting global language, whereas at an older age the language disorder may be more severe and specific.  This area is not clear, but the effects are common, and early intervention may be helpful.
  • Some children with FASD may receive average ratings, though this may not adequately consider written or social language skills.

Although there is more to learn about the language profilesof children with FASD, it is clear there is a role for SLPs from a very early age.

Have a story about a client with FASD or advice for your colleagues?  Please leave a comment!



Public Health Agency of Canada. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): A Framework for Action. Ottawa: PHAC, 2003.

Proven, S., Ens, C., & Beaudin, P. (2014). The Language Profile of School-Aged Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Canadian Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, 37(4), p 268 – 279. 

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 17, 2015 1:23 am

    Great information. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: