|Vol. 6, No. 1, 2000 Page 7|
Recently (Crime Times, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 2, Page 2), psychologist Josephine Nanson reported that as many as half of young offenders appearing in provincial court in Saskatchewan are affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). A new study by another group of Canadian researchers, D. K. Fast and colleagues, als so reports a high incidence of FAS and FAE (Fetal Alcohol Effects, a milder form of FAS) among youth in the criminal justice system.
Fast and colleagues evaluated all young offenders remanded to a forensic psychiatric inpatient assessment unit over a one-year period. Of the 287 subjects, the researchers say, 67-or 23.3 percent-suffered from either FAS or FAE. Of that group, the majorit ty (64 of the subjects) suffered from the harder-to-identify FAE.
"This group [individuals with FAE or FAS] is disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system," Fast and colleagues say, "indicating the need for increased education and awareness among those in the criminal justice system involved with these e youth."
In related research, Joan Stoler and Lewis Holmes report that, despite increasing awareness of FAS and FAE, medical professionals frequently fail to diagnose children with these disorders. Studying 124 alcohol-abusing women and their infants, the research hers found that pediatricians failed to document maternal alcohol abuse in most cases, and that even in the 19 cases where physicians did document such abuse, they failed to diagnose both of the two children with FAS, and six of the seven with FAE.
The researchers say the failure to diagnose alcohol-affected children is tragic because those who do not receive early diagnoses and assistance suffer from "secondary disabilities" such as school failure, delinquency, and difficulty holding down jobs or l living independently.
"Identifying fetal alcohol syndrome among youth in the criminal justice system," D. K. Fast, J. Conry, and C. A. Loock, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Vol. 20, No. 5, October 20, 1999, pp. 370-372. Address: D. K. Fast, British Columbia's Children's Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
"Under-recognition of prenatal alcohol effects in infants of known alcohol abusing women," Joan M. Stoler and Lewis B. Holmes, Journal of Pediatrics, Vol. 135, No. 4, October 1999, pp. 430-436. Address: Joan M. Stoler, Genetics and Teratology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Warren 801, Boston, MA 02114.