Study: FASD Often Confused with ADHD, But Symptoms More Severe

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) share many attributes, and children with FASD are often misdiagnosed as having ADHD. However, a recent study found that children with FASD have a harder time understanding social information than their peers with ADHD, and are at a higher risk of psychiatric problems, Forbes reported July 17.

The Children’s Mental Health Team at Surrey Place Centre in Toronto studied 33 youth with FASD, 30 with ADHD, and 34 with neither of the disorders to gaugetheir social-cognition skills and their ability to process emotions. They found that while FASD and ADHD both are characterized by similar behavioral problems — such as a limited attention span, restlessness and severe impulsivity — children with FASD had more difficulty interpreting the mental state and emotions of others.

These problems can lead to even more serious behavioral problems, including lying and stealing, according to researchers.

“It is imperative that these children receive assistance in social and emotional processing domains, specifically targeting interventions to deal with their unique deficits,” said Joanne Rovet, co-author of the study and a University of Toronto professor.

The study is set to appear in the October 2009 edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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