Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Therapies and supports

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Types of support

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a life-long condition. It's most helpful to intervene as early as possible and get a diagnosis. This can improve:

  • self-esteem
  • self-awareness
  • life skills, like cooking and hygiene
  • adaptability like learning how to cope with new situations

Different programs and supports are available depending on individual needs.

Physicians and pediatricians

Physicians and pediatricians can refer someone to a specialist or provide a diagnosis. They will:

  • prescribe appropriate medication, if needed
  • recommend appropriate ways to address health care issues
Speech and language pathologists

Some people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder may have difficulty:

  • speaking clearly
  • finding words to use in sentences
  • understanding what's being said to them

Speech and language pathologists help to develop verbal and social communication abilities. They can help people to:

  • speak more clearly
  • use words appropriately in phrases or sentences
  • improve speech and language delays and weaknesses
  • develop communications skills, such as waiting for the right time to speak
Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists help teach daily life skills to people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Depending on the person's abilities, the therapist can help them:

  • develop self-care skills
  • develop motor skills, such as working with:
    • their hands or fingers
    • strength, balance and coordination
  • develop memory, organizational and coping strategies
  • improve their social and emotional abilities, including how to:
    • regulate emotions
    • increase attention and focus
    • give people appropriate space
  • adapt to sensory sensitivities, such as being overly sensitive to clothing tags or loud sounds
Psychologists and psychiatrists

Psychologists and psychiatrists treat the emotional, social and psychological challenges that people face. They can help someone with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to develop their:

  • social skills
  • self-awareness
  • self-confidence
  • coping mechanisms, such as breathing exercises

They also address mental health issues, such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • behavioural issues

Physiotherapists help people develop and maintain physical movements, including:

  • balance
  • strength
  • coordination
Social workers

Social workers work with people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and their family to help understand the condition's impacts. Social workers can provide counselling and help people:

  • access financial assistance
  • connect with community resources
Financial support

Learn more about financial assistance:


At school, parents and staff can develop an individual education plan to help support and structure a child's learning. The plan identifies the areas of the school curriculum and environment to change or adapt to help children succeed academically.

Families and caregivers

Families and caregivers can find fetal alcohol spectrum disorder challenging, and need support as well. Training and community-based programs are available to help them understand more about:

  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • strategies to best support someone with the disorder
  • how to help someone with the disorder care for themselves

Where to find help

You can support someone with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder by learning more about the condition. You can seek help and advice from:

  • local support groups
  • provincial, territorial and community services
  • other people or families living with the disorder

Addiction prevention and treatment programming is also available for those who need it:

Atlantic Canada
British Columbia
Northwest Territories

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