Thursday, April 18, 2013

THEY'RE NOT DONE YET: The Jury is Still Out on Light Drinking Does Not Cause Damage

The internet was buzzing yesterday with the new study out of the UK on light drinking not causing any learning problems for children.  In their study they studied a group of 7 year olds and found there to not be any statistically differences with non-affected peers.  So many news articles citing that light drinking is safe, but every article has a small disclaimer from the original study.

I write my questions and rebuttal to make people and the media think. The headlines are too misleading.

Here is a news article about the subject:

Here is another one which they state the the jury is still out

Where I have questions are and believe that the study and its news coverage is giving a false security?

First and foremost, lighter neurological damage from the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure will probably not become apparent until after at 9 or 10.  Early children are very concrete thinkers, and often children who are on the FASD spectrum will have trouble with abstract thinking.

Yesterday I sat in on a Webinar sponsored by the ARC and done by Kathy Mitchell from The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome where she talked about the optimum time to test for FASD's is ages 6 to 12.  So what that means is that until that group of children age we will not know if they have any statistical neurological differences.  They have to wait to see if they begin to fall from being unable to learn abstract learning or have any executive function deficits, or when they don't meet the next several typically developing markers in development.  Until they meet that milestone which happens at ages 9 to 10 and prove that their executive functions are developing appropriately,  we will not be certain they do not have some learning differences.

What this study does tell us, is that light drinking does not cause the most severe learning challenges seen in FASD. But it does not say even from their own quote that they give the GO AHEAD and these children are not affected.

I believe that from what I have read they

QUOTE:   " Kelly stressed, however, that long-term data is still needed. “While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood,” she said.

BINGO.... until later.   Kids with more severe exposures are identified earlier on because of the more severe findings of their FASD.  I have met many a family, child who did not get diagnosed until much later, even after high school when they could not meet expections.

Second, what is light drinking to one person may be more than they think. What are they saying are the perimeters for light drinking?  Drinking till you pass out is binging for some, but for someone light drinking may be more moderate drinking.  What is one drink? a 4 ounce, 8 ounce, 16 ounce, 32 ounce, which kind of liquor?

Third, there are studies going on right now where they study why some children are affected and some aren't. What are the dynamics for who is more at risk for having prenatal alcohol damage?


Little children do things naturally, and until as they develop and these certain areas are keeping up with the typical peers. This group of kids until they are not developing more abstract thinking, and they are not growing and maturing in the areas of processing skills, memory,  following through on instructions more independently, organization, impulse control, learning lags, and will unable to develop or have problems with higher order thinking.

We also have to wait until they hit the plateau and  until they fall from expectations we will know.  Emotional problems develop as they age, little children can throw tantrums, but as they age they should mature out of them. These group of children have not yet gotten to the age where their  emotional and learning differences still stand out.  Also the emotional toll of the stress which disregulates behavior and when they cannot keep up with the expectations that is when the secondary mental health/emotional issues such as depression and other childhood issues begin to appear.

I have seen so many kids not be diagnosed until not just the age 9/10 marker, but the next place where some plateau is at middle school and puberty, the next marker where some fall is at high school when they cannot meet the demands of even higher level thinking.

 For me, my adopted son all who assessed him thought he was spared.  The young star athlete, never a day of special education with typical A, B, C's for grades. A college entrance testing got him into a four year university and he can't manage money, he struggles with too much complexity and depression ensued. He flunked out of school. I was told his genetics prevented him from the prenatal exposures his siblings all have. He was going to be the survivor of the group and the professionals told me to watch him for survivors guilt. I knew he had struggles, he thrived on our direction, he could handle much more than his siblings, but our structure of our family and support gave everyone a false sense of his abilities.   I have a friend whose child got a four year scholarship to a prestigous University with his genius, but he struggled with the executive function and abilities to manage just normal life losing his scholarship.  These kids were diagnosed much later if at all.  All known to have prenatal alcohol exposures.

I cringe when I see reality TV where they talk to Mom's who knew they drank while pregnant and the baby turns out fine.  They see a perfect baby, but will not see the hidden learning difference that may not appear until much later in life.  Then we will also struggle with the fact that they may just have lost a couple of points of IQ, where would that child had landed if the Mother hadn't drank at all.

Until the study is concluded and I pray they follow those children all the way to adulthood and at that point we will be able to really tell if or not they were affected.

My daughter who struggles with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders she tells me why would anyone knowingly make her life harder?  For my little Guy will FULL FAS, he will pay a lifetime price.
For my son who everyone thought would skate away and be spared, he wasn't and it was not apparent until age l8, along with so many others I know.

WHY TAKE THE RISK?  Give you child the most advantageous start possible. No amount of Alcohol is Safe.

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