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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Accommodation and Compliance: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a common, yet preventable condition that results from prenatal alcohol exposure. The impairments that are part of fetal alcohol syndrome are irreversible and can include serious physical, mental, and behavioral problems with possible life-long implications. The severity of the impairments varies, with some individuals experiencing them to a far greater degree than others. As many as 40,000 babies are born with some type of alcohol-related impairment each year in the United States.

FAS is not a single birth defect; it is a cluster of related problems, the most severe of a group of consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure. Collectively, the range of disorders is known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Signs of FAS may include distinctive facial features; heart, kidney, and bone defects; slow physical growth before and after birth; vision and/or hearing difficulties; small head circumference and brain size; poor coordination; sleep problems; intellectual impairments, delayed development, and learning disorders. Behavioral issues associated with FAS include short attention span; hyperactivity; extreme nervousness and anxiety; and poor impulse control, reasoning, and judgment skills.

JAN's Accommodation Solutions: Executive Functioning Deficits is a publication detailing accommodations for individuals with limitations related to executive functioning. These ideas may be helpful in determining accommodations. 

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

People with FAS may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with FAS will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome