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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is Life Changing for Children and Adults

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day in Ohio is September 9th. FASD includes a wide range of irreversible problems in children and adults exposed to alcohol before they were born.

The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services says prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading cause of preventable birth defects in Ohio.

An estimated one percent of all children have been exposed, including Phil Petrosky's adopted daughter, Jenny. "She was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at the age of six," says Petrosky. "It took several years to get the diagnosis."

That was more than 20 years ago. More is known today about the impact on babies of their mother's drinking. Surprisingly, a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome is uncommon.

Melinda Norman, FASD project coordinator for ODADA, says some behaviors associated with fetal alcohol syndrome are similar to those associated with ADD and ADHD.

"It's the child w/ behavioral problems, cognitive disabilities, learning problems", says Norman. "It's the child who is not able to adapt to society and unwritten rules of our world that we take for granted."

Petrosky says the idea of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome did not register with him until their daughter was in school. They immediately saw extensive social and behavioral problems. Jenny also withdrew from other children in kindergarten.

Petrosky says, even after Jenny was diagnosed, repeated testing was needed to convince school officials that she had special needs. Tears come into his eyes as Petrosky says, still today, he needs to explain why his daughter does what she does. He worries about whether she will be safe and whether those around her will be safe. The emotional strain is evident.

Petrosky says Jenny finished high school. She lives in housing available through the Franklin County MRDD where she has round the clock supervision. He says she does well in a sheltered workshop.

"We see good quality of life things," he says. "But she can see what other people her age do. She can't drive a car. She isn't going to get married. She isn't going to have a family. Sometimes,you can see that she feels trapped."

Phil Petrosky and others have developed a web site with information about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The title of the site reflects what research says about drinking and pregnancy. It also carries the message Petrosky and others want most to convey to women of child-bearing age ..Not a Single Drop.org.