A review of social skills deficits in individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and prenatal alcohol exposure: profiles, mechanisms, and interventions

Katrina Kully-Martens, Kennedy Denys, Sarah Treit, Sukhpreet Tamana, Carmen Rasmussen
Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 2012, 36 (4): 568-76

BACKGROUND: Individuals gestationally exposed to alcohol experience a multitude of sociobehavioral impairments, including deficits in adaptive behaviors such as social skills.

METHODS: The goal of this report is to critically review research on social skills deficits in individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure, including individuals with and without fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

RESULTS: Social deficits are found in alcohol-exposed children, adults, and adolescents with and without a clinical presentation. These deficits tend to persist across the lifespan and may even worsen with age. Social deficits in this population appear to be independent of facial dysmorphology and IQ and are worse than can be predicted based on atypical behaviors alone. Abnormalities in neurobiology, executive function, sensory processing, and communication likely interact with contextual influences to produce the range of social deficits observed in FASD.

CONCLUSIONS: Future investigations should strive to reconcile the relationship between social skills deficits in FASD and variables such as gender, age, cognitive profile, and structural and functional brain impairments to enable better characterization of the deficits observed in this population, which will enhance diagnosis and improve remediation.

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