Background In 2004 a study at the University of Washington Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit imaged newborn babies, some of whom had been exposed to high levels of alcohol prenatally, with intracranial ultrasound. Analysis of the corpus callosa showed that the alcohol-exposed babies were the only babies to show a high “splenium angle” (Bookstein et al, 2005).
Study Design and Methods This study followed up 32 of the babies who had received a cranial ultrasound postpartum at their present mean age of 22 months. They were assessed with the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), a developmental screening measure designed to detect children who are significantly below average in any of several areas of development.
Results Using the standard ASQ age-specific cutoff scores, in all but one ASQ domain, a few subjects from both groups (alcohol exposed and unexposed) fell below the cutoff. The correlations between ASQ domain scores and splenium angle were not significant except for ASQ-Problem Solving.
Conclusions The unexpected result regarding the overall lack of developmental delays in fetal alcohol-exposed children could be due to the inappropriateness of the ASQ for screening children in this high-risk group. Furthermore, maternal report may not be accurate when used with mothers with substance abuse problems. The difficulty of identifying children with brain damage due to fetal alcohol exposure using standard developmental measures indicates the need for a reliable screening method at birth so that individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can be properly supported.
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