Today marks International FASD Awareness Day, a condition about which little is known - despite it being thought to be more common than autism.

The charity Adoption UK has today published a report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which looks at the challenges associated with diagnosing FASD and offers recommendations for how health, social care and education authorities across the UK can better tackle the condition among care experienced children.

FASD, which is an umbrella term for people who have neurological difficulties after being exposed to alcohol before birth, affects between two and five percent of the population.

Britain’s leading FASD expert, Dr Raja Mukherjee, estimates that a third of adopted children have FASD with alcohol misuse one of the main reasons children are taken into care.

The vast majority of the problems associated with FASD fall into four categories: growth problems; behaviour issues such as anxiety and attention deficit; problems with learning such as executive functioning and memory; and physical problems such as hearing and visual difficulties.

Dr Mukherjee, who was the keynote speaker at Adoption UK’s FASD conference in Edinburgh in May, said: “The UK is the fourth highest country in the world in terms of drinking during pregnancy. At least two percent of the UK population is affected by FASD – it could be even more. In looked after and adopted people it’s much higher and it could be almost a third, because of the background they come from.”

The report, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Diagnostic challenges and recommendations for the future, makes a series of recommendations to improve the lives of those living with, or parenting a child with FASD. These include the assessment of all care-experienced children for FASD, thus acknowledging the heightened risk and prevalence within this cohort. Adoption UK also wants to see support for primary care medical professional to better recognise, diagnose and support families living with FASD as well as greater information and training for schools and educational professionals.

Joe FitzPatrick MSP, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said: “I am delighted to be marking FASD International Awareness Day with Adoption UK Scotland. I could not let this day pass without acknowledging the valuable work that you do to support adoptive parents, foster carers and kinship carers living with and caring for children with FASD.

“The Scottish Government continues to prioritise work around FASD to ensure there is a consistent approach to identification, diagnosis and support for the children and families affected. We are marking the day with another event to raise awareness of this lifelong condition.

“I would like to take this opportunity to wish Adoption UK Scotland well in your continued work.”

Fiona Aitken, Adoption UK’s Director Scotland, said: “FASD is a growing issue in Scotland, and one that we are becoming more aware of as we learn more about it. We know that misuse of alcohol  is one of the main reasons children are taken into care, and it’s clear that foster, adoptive and kinship care families are at the heart of the issue. FASD should be ruled out for every child taken into care. By increasing awareness, and identifying it early we can provide the extra support and understanding these children and their families need.”

In a survey, which Adoption UK carried out with Radio 4’s File on 4 in 2017, about a third of adoptive parents who responded believed they did not receive ’full and correct’ information about their children during the adoption process. More than a third of respondents said they had considered that their child may have FASD.

Fiona added: “We need to see a concerted effort in each nation of the UK to improve prevention, diagnosis, and support for FASD, with particular attention to disproportionately impacted group

s such as care experienced and adopted children, and disadvantaged families.”

FASD is the most common non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK.