Background: Alcohol use during pregnancy can result in a continuum of effects including growth deficits, dysmorphology and/or complex patterns of behavioural and cognitive difficulties that influence an individual's functioning throughout their lifespan. We conducted a systematic review to identify research-based interventions for children and youth with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and areas for future study.
Methods: We identified the substantive literature by searching 40 peer-reviewed and 23 grey literature databases, as well as reference lists. We hand-searched eight relevant journals, and undertook a systematic search of Internet sites and review of reports and documents received from key stakeholders. Two reviewers independently assessed eligibility and quality, and extracted data. Given the small number of studies that met all inclusion criteria, both experimental and quasi-experimental studies were included.
Results: Ten intervention studies were identified, of which three were experimental or quasi-experimental, and four were non-experimental. Despite multiple attempts, three studies (two in foreign languages and one unpublished) could not be acquired. A meta-analysis could not be undertaken because the included studies examined different interventions or outcomes. Interventions targeted in the included studies were as follows: (i) psychostimulant medications (methyphenidate, pemoline and dextroamphetamine); and (ii) Cognitive Control Therapy. The identified studies were limited by very small sample sizes and weak designs.
Conclusion: There is limited scientific evidence upon which to draw recommendations regarding efficacious interventions for children and youth with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Clinicians, researchers, service providers, educators, policy makers, affected children and youth and their families, and others need to urgently collaborate to develop a comprehensive research agenda for this population.