PRENATAL DRUG EXPOSURE

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APE FACT SHEET
PRENATAL DRUG EXPOSURE
DEFINITION:
Over one million women in the United States who use alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and other
drugs increase the risk of giving birth to babies with developmental delays.
Fetal alcohol exposure is the nations leading cause of mental retardation.
Approximately 5,000-10,000 babies are born each year with severe Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
(FAS). FAS is defined as defects to the developing fetus due to excessive alcohol
consumption during pregnancy causing mental retardation, facial anomalies or heart defects
in the child.
Approximately 11% of all newborns in the United States (375,000 infants) are exposed to
drugs in utero.
Prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) is when a mother who uses cocaine exposes it to her
developing fetus. These children are known as “crack babies” as a result of the cocaine usage
epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. It was founded that the results of PCE is linked to
hyperactivity and birth defects in the brain and muscles. Unlike FAS, there are no specific
disorders or conditions associated with PCE. (Liu & Lester, 2011, p.1)
CHARACTERISTICS OF FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME (FAS):
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Craniofacial defects (almond-shaped eyes, sunken nasal bridge, small flat midface)
Significant growth retardation before and after birth
Poor sucking behaviors in infants
Disrupted sleep behaviors
Tremors and abnormal reflexes
Delays in fine and gross motor behavior
Hyperactivity
Speech delays
Difficulties with verbal comprehension
CHARACTERISTICS OF “CRACK BABIES”:
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Tremors
Lin, P. & Dillon, L. (2012)
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Chronic irritability
Poor visual orientation
Strokes and/or seizures as infants
Smaller head circumference
Missing bowels
Violent tendencies
Hyperactivity
Learning difficulties
Little or no understanding of cause and effect
Aggression towards peers
Inability to play spontaneously
Impulsive
Hypertonia due to brain trauma
Distractible
Low Apgar scores (Apgar scores are indicators of the infant’s status immediately after
birth, including breathing, color, heart rate, muscle tone and overall behavior)
TEACHING TIPS:
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Create exploration and play activities for the child’s development needs.
Create a structured and predictable environment.
Develop rules that are clear, concrete and concise.
Provide a 1:1 teacher/student ratio.
Provide a positive role model for the child to imitate.
Create a functional and creative environment for the child to play.
Prenatal drug exposure often continues to affect the child as he/she enters school. These
children and young adults demonstrate an exaggerated need for routine in a patient and
structured environment, and one-on-one attention from teachers and care givers.
Reference:
Liu, J. & Lester, B. (2011). Reconceptualizing in a dual-system model the effects of prenatal
cocaine exposure on adolescent development: a short review. International Journal of
Developmental Neuroscience, 29, p. 803-809.
Information on this sheet contains only suggested guidelines. Each student must be
considered individually, and in many cases, a physician’s written consent should be
obtained.
Lin, P. & Dillon, L. (2012)
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