Sensory processing and adaptive behavior deficits of children across the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder continuum

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010 Jun;34(6):1022-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01177.x. Epub 2010 Apr 5.


Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure can have detrimental effects on a child's development of adaptive behaviors necessary for success in the areas of academic achievement, socialization, and self-care. Sensory processing abilities have been found to affect a child's ability to successfully perform adaptive behaviors. The current study explored whether significant differences in sensory processing abilities, adaptive behavior, and neurocognitive functioning are observed between children diagnosed with partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), or children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol (PEA), but did not meet criteria for an FASD diagnosis. The influence of IQ on adaptive behavior as well as further exploration of the relationship between sensory processing and adaptive behavior deficits among these children was also examined.

Methods: A secondary analysis was conducted on some of the Short Sensory Profile (SSP) scores, Adaptive Behavior Assessment System--Second Edition (ABAS-II) scores, and Wechsler Intelligence Scale--Fourth Edition/Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence--Third Edition (WISC- IV/WPPSI-III) scores of 46 children between 3 and 14 years of age with pFAS, ARND, or who were PEA.

Results: Greater sensory processing deficits were found in children with a diagnosis of pFAS and ARND compared to those in the PEA group. Children with an ARND diagnosis scored significantly worse on measures of adaptive behavior than the PEA group. Children with pFAS scored significantly lower than children with ARND or PEA on perceptual/performance IQ. No correlation was found between IQ scores and adaptive behaviors across the FASD diagnostic categories. A significant positive correlation was found between SSP and ABAS-II scores.

Conclusions: Regardless of the diagnosis received under the FASD umbrella, functional difficulties that could not be observed using traditional measures of intelligence were found, supporting guidelines that a broad range of standardized assessments be included when screening children for FASD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sensation Disorders / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index