Assessment and Diagnosis
Diagnosis within the spectrum of FASD is a medical process. Specially trained doctors and teams of professionals ask questions and gather information during the assessment process. The team will look for key features of FASD including problems with growth, certain facial characteristics, impairment to central nervous system (problems with learning, behavioural or sensory problems) and knowledge about maternal alcohol use. Following assessment, a decision may be made on a diagnosis within the spectrum. In some cases, an additional or co-occurring diagnosis may be made.
Early assessment is important as therapeutic interventions can begin at an earlier age and appropriate strategies can be used earlier in life. In many cases, diagnosis will not be given for children younger than six, however early assessment can provide good information and diagnosis can follow as the child grows and cognitively develops.
The following describes the Canadian diagnostic terms and criteria within the span of FASD (Chudley et al, 2005).
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): To be diagnosed with FAS other possible diagnoses must first be excluded. Diagnostic criteria must be met in the areas of growth deficiency, specific facial features, evidence of central nervous system impairment and confirmation of prenatal alcohol exposure. It is important to note that although rare, a diagnosis of FAS may sometimes be given without confirmed prenatal exposure to alcohol.
Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS): Again, other possible diagnoses must first be excluded. This diagnosis relies on confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure, evidence of facial features typical of FASD and evidence of central nervous system impairments. In this case, the child would have very minimal or no growth deficiencies. With this diagnosis, it is important to note that while the physical indicators may be fewer, the impairment to the central nervous system and deficits in brain functioning may be similarly profound as in the case of a diagnosis of FAS.
Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): This is another diagnosis within the spectrum. For an individual to be diagnosed with ARND, other diagnoses must be excluded, prenatal exposure to alcohol must confirmed and there must be evidence of impairment to central nervous system functioning. An individual with ARND would not have any physical signs of disability.
Knowledge about assessment and diagnosis is still quite new. There are relatively few trained teams in Canada and Saskatchewan. This means that many individuals who might have been exposed to alcohol in the womb have not been diagnosed within the spectrum of FASD. The assessment and diagnostic process is long and can be complicated but it is important. The FASD Support Network of Saskatchewan continues to work with other agencies, professionals and families to increase services in assessment and diagnosis.
Where to Seek Assessment and Diagnosis in Saskatchewan
In Saskatchewan, diagnostic services are presently available in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. What follows is a brief overview of some of the services available at this time; not all services are necessarily presented in this overview. There may be a waiting period at each location and the wait time may vary.
Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program at the Kinsmen Children’s Centre offers assessment and diagnostic services for children and youth from birth to 18 years. You will need a medical referral from your family doctor. You can ask for a referral if you are noticing behavioural issues, learning problems or sensory concerns. Contact (306) 655-1070 to speak with an intake worker. For questions or more information on the assessment and diagnostic process at Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program call Linda Charlton, Social Worker, at (306) 655-1085.
Travelling clinics have provided services in northern communities.
Adults can receive a psychological assessment from Dr. Gerald Block. Following that, clients can be referred to a medical assessment by their family doctor. For more information, call the Network at 1-866-673-3276.
A multidisciplinary team at Regina Child and Youth Services offers assessment and diagnostic services for children, youth and adults. You do not need a doctor’s referral for services. Contact the intake office at (306) 766-6700 with questions or for information about FASD assessment and diagnosis.
Traveling clinics have offered services to southern Saskatchewan communities.
The FASD Centre at Regina Community Clinic provides support, assessment, diagnosis and follow-up for persons aged six through adulthood. You can contact FASD Case Coordinator, Cheryl Charron, at (306) 543-7880 ext. 268 with questions or for information on the assessment and diagnostic process.
The Early Childhood Development Team, located in the Therapies Department at the Victoria Hospital, provides assessment services for children from birth to preschool age. You can contact the Early Childhood Development Team at (306)765-6126.
The Child and Youth Development Clinic provides assessment and diagnostic services for children starting in Kindergarten, through to young adults aged 24 years. You do not need a referral from a doctor. Contact Laurie Janzen, Clinic Coordinator at (306) 765-6068 with questions or for more information about the assessment and diagnostic process.
Families in Rural, Remote or Isolated Communities
Families in communities outside of Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert will need to travel to access assessment and diagnostic services. While traveling clinics do occasionally offer services to remote or isolated communities, these clinics are limited.