A school-based screening program for fetal alcohol syndrome

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Nov-Dec 2003;25(6):725-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ntt.2003.07.007.


Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a common cause of birth defects and neuropsychiatric impairment. Identification of affected people is crucial for early entry into intervention programs and for the development of prevalence estimates. The objective of this project was to determine if screening for FAS in a community elementary school-based setting was feasible, to estimate prevalence in the screened population, and to determine if a screening program for FAS can be implemented using available personnel from the community. The FAS Screen was used to screen kindergarten students enrolled in a school system. Students with scores on the FAS Screen above the cutoff for a positive screen (20) were referred to one of several diagnostic clinics for evaluation. Over a 9-year period, 1384 students were screened and 69 (5%) had a positive screen (20 or above). These 69 children were then seen in a genetics/dysmorphology diagnostic clinic and 7 (10%) were found to have FAS (n=6) or partial FAS (n=1). The prevalence of affected children (FAS and partial FAS) was 1 per 198 students or 4.3 per 1000. The FAS Screen was completed annually by school staff, teachers, social workers, and psychologists. The test has acceptable epidemiologic performance characteristics in a community setting. The screening takes about 8-10 min. The procedure was well accepted in the community. This screening strategy was inexpensive to implement (less than US8.00 dollars per student), and can be easily included with the other screens completed at kindergarten entry.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Physical Examination
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Schools*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity