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Primary Disabilities


A Primary Disability is a disability caused directly by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.

Individuals with FASD may have the following types of Primary Disabilities:

Academic Achievement

  • May have learning disabilities

Adaptive Behaviour and Social Skills

  • May act younger than their age

  • May have problems making and keeping friends

  • May not understand social cues or body language

  • May have poor understanding of personal boundaries

  • May have difficulties with personal hygiene

Affect Regulation

  • May struggle to regulate their emotions

Attention / Hyperactivity

  • May be easily distracted

  • May say whatever comes to mind

  • May struggle to stay focused on a task

  • May be constantly in motion


  • May have difficulty planning and following through with a plan

  • May have difficulty with abstract concepts

  • May struggle to understand another’s perspective

Executive Functioning Skills

  • May have poor impulse control

  • May have difficulty with math, money, time, ownership and consequences

  • May struggle to understand cause and effect in situation

  • May have poor judgement

  • May be unable to take learning from one situation to another

  • May have difficulty organizing, planning and coordinating

  • May have trouble transitioning

Language and Communication

  • May not understand subtle jokes or statements that have a double meaning

  • May takes things very literally

  • May be able to repeat an instruction, but then cannot complete the task

Motor Skills

  • May have trouble with coordination, balance and control

Sensory Integration

  • May have a sensitivity to light, sound, texture or touch

  • May have a low or high pain tolerance

Learning and Memory-encoding/working memory

  • May seem to understand a concept one day, and not understand it the next day

  • May have trouble storing and retrieving information from their memory, leading to an inconsistent performance on tasks

  • May have difficulty finding items

  • May have memory gaps, and story tell/ fill in the blanks as a result


Cook JL, Green CR, Lilley CM, et al.; (2015) Canadian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: a guideline for diagnosis across the lifespan. CAMJ.

Debolt, Donna (2015, September).  FASD A child centered perspective.  Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.  Hamilton, Ontario.

Malbin, D. V. (2002). Trying Differently Rather Than Harder: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (2nd Ed.). Portland, OR: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Consultation, Education and Training Services (FASCETS), Inc.

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