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There are a handful of methods to diagnose FASD:

  • 4 – digit code (Universty of Washington)
  • CDC (Center for Disease Control) method
  • Modified Institute of Medicine method
  • Combination method (MN approach)

Each method obtains information about four health parameters:

  1. Growth
  2. Facial features
  3. Brain development and functioning
  4. Exposure to alcohol in utero

The data obtained regarding these four parameters are ranked by degree of expression in the individuals being examined. That ranking is them compared to the defined criteria for FASD, and a diagnosis is given based on the evidence.

All of the methods of FASD diagnosis assess these same four health parameters. The difference in the methods is how they define the criteria for each of the three diagnostic categories, FAS, pFAS, and ARND. This can result in different diagnoses from one method to the next, although the medical evidence is the same. One method also subdivides the three categories into many smaller categories, giving a more specific description of the individual’s diagnosis.

As more research is done about FASD, diagnosis is becoming more standard. The CDC and FASD experts continue to work on honing one diagnostic model.


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