ALPS, or fetal alcohol syndrome, is a condition resulting from a pregnant woman's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. ALPS brings with it many difficulties for the child, causing developmental disorders, learning difficulties and delayed psychomotor and social and emotional development. This is influenced by the damage done by teratogenic ethanol entering the placenta during pregnancy.
What are the characteristics of ALPS?
In 1999, the criteria necessary for a medical diagnosis of ALPS were established. Criterion number one relates to the mother and the period of pregnancy, and it speaks of documented alcohol consumption by the pregnant woman. The second criterion is the finding of deficits in body measure and length during the prenatal period, as well as immediately after birth. The third criterion refers to physical abnormalities, especially those in the face, in the form of deformities, in the structure of the limbs, in the form of organ defects. The last criterion is the focus on the nervous system and possible disorders on its part. ALPS is diagnosed when the first criterion (maternal drinking during pregnancy) is met, even if all criteria are not observed .
The most noticeable signs of ALPS include abnormalities related to the child's facial structure - extraoral anomalies (i.e. wide orbital spacing, short eyelid crevices, saddle nose, small mandible, flattening of the midface, absence of a lift gutter, narrow upper lip) and intraoral abnormalities (such as cleft palate, malocclusion). Defects of the internal organs are also likely - in the specialist literature there are descriptions of defects of the urinary tract, genital tract, a defect of the heart muscle in the form of a ventricular septal defect or kidney disease .
Disorders of social development
The first and most significant issue is the first months of a child's life with ALPS mainly because of the possibility of withdrawal symptoms - especially if the mother has taken alcohol continuously during pregnancy. Physical development issues aside, the child will struggle with many difficulties in establishing social relationships. Young children diagnosed with ALPS show signs of hyperactivity, distractibility, short attention span and developmental delays. Along with hyperactivity, sensory hypersensitivity, both to touch and to sound, may also occur. This carries with it frequent nervous reactions and yielding to moods, insecurity, an inability to distinguish friend from foe, hence behaviour towards other people may be inappropriate. Moreover, the basis of communication, i.e. language development, is also impaired, so that children's social contacts tend to focus on children 2-3 years younger than themselves. Increasing anger and frustration with age can lead to rejection from the peer group .