Q: If you suspect that your adopted child may have been exposed to alcohol or drugs prenatally what type of evaluation should you have and when?
A: Ira Chasnoff, one of the nation’s leading researchers studying the effects of maternal alcohol and drug use on the newborn infant and child, states: “Children with prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs need and evaluation that goes far beyond what is usually considered an “evaluation” by schools or most mental health professionals. Keys to an appropriate evaluation is that it needs to be performed by a multidisciplinary team. A physician should evaluate the child’s growth patterns and neurological functioning and assess the presence of any changes in the facial features consistent with prenatal alcohol exposure. The child should then have an assessment of neuropsychological functioning that covers three key domains: neurocognitive (for example, memory, executive functioning), adaptive behavior (how well the child uses daily living skills), and self-regulation (behavior, emotion, motor). Research shows that if you can identify a child at risk from prenatal exposure, get an assessment, and begin treatment before the age of six years, you can significantly and positively change the child’s long term developmental trajectory. Obviously, the earlier the child begins treatment, the better, but it is never too late to intervene.”
For more information, you can listen to our radio show titled “Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposure: Interview with Dr. Ira Chasnoff.”
Image Credit: Province of British Columbia