A practical testing battery to measure neurobehavioral ability among children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Wendy O. Kalberg, Phillip A. May, Jason Blankenship, David Buckley, J. Phillip Gossage, Colleen M. Adnams


Kalberg, W., May, P., Blankenship, J., Buckley, D., Gossage, J., & Adnams, C. (2013). A practical testing battery to measure neurobehavioral ability among children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 2(3), 51-60. doi:10.7895/ijadr.v2i3.83 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i3.83)

Aim: To determine a brief, practical battery of tests that discriminate between children with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and unexposed controls.

Design: Children received dysmorphology exams and a targeted battery of cognitive and behavioral tests, and their mothers were interviewed about maternal risk factors. Children diagnosed with an FASD and children unexposed to alcohol prenatally were compared on cognitive-behavioral test results.

Setting: A community in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.

Participants: Sixty-one first-grade children with FASD and 52 matched normal controls.

Measures: Statistical analyses of maternal drinking behavior and the children’s test performances.

Findings: Self-reported maternal drinking patterns before, during, and after pregnancy were used to confirm prenatal exposures to alcohol in the group of children diagnosed with FASD. With this sample of children diagnosed with FASD and completely unexposed controls, the adverse effects of maternal drinking on children’s performance are corroborated. Results of the battery of standardized cognitive and behavioral tests indicate highly significant differences (p ≤ .001) between the two groups on intelligence, perceptual motor skills, and planning, and on logical, spatial, short term, long term, and working memory abilities. Furthermore, a binary logistical regression model of only three specific cognitive and behavioral tests, including Digit Span A+B (Wald = 3.90), Absurd Situation (Wald = 4.73), and Word Association (Wald = 6.85) correctly classified 77.6% of the child participants as FASD or controls.

Conclusions: A brief, practical set of tests can discriminate between children with and without FASD and provide useful information for interventions for affected children.


FASD; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD); cognitive/behavioral testing; diagnosis; alcohol abuse

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i3.83


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