FASDAY 2005 / 2

I thought we were adopting a healthy, little baby. I felt so betrayed. 
FASD dad*

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FAS Symposium   10.09.05  Mülheim/Ruhr, Germany

Part 2


3 ) Prof. Dr. med. H.-L. Spohr - FASD and Criminal Behavior

Prof. Spohr started with a description of fetal development. He then discussed diagnosis on the basis of a multitude of pictures of people with FASD, from babies to adults, illustrating their development.

People with FASD are prone to Secondary disabilities, as:

Psycho mental conditions, ADHD, depression, school drop out, learning disabilities, behavior problems, problems with the law, incarceration, substance abuse or needing psychiatric services.

Prof. Spohr’s research showed that 86% of young adults with FASD were unemployed, 30% of the predominantly female adults were able to live independently, 70% needed assistance.

“The best therapy […] is a (long term)
foster family with marathon qualities”

                                                                                 Prof. Spohr

Prof. Spohr also talked about a young man with FASD. Sandrino experienced in his young life typical experiences of young adults, whose disability is not visible to the outer world: unawareness and lack of understanding. He wasn’t diagnosed with FASD “There are no indications for FAS, because he never had early childhood interventions”. His stay in a psychiatric ward for youths was cut short because “looser and lazy people don’t belong here!

He continuously had trouble with the law and had a tendency towards violent behavior.

This young man was present. Hopefully an acceptable solution will be found for him, so that he can get the interventions needed and most importantly can find acceptance.

People with FASD are frequently misunderstood. 50% of adults with FASD have ADHD – they compensate their memory problems by making up stories (confabulating). Normal punishment and reward strategies only have a limited impact on them. They are extremely prone to criminal behavior.

Problems adults face in court:

  • Smiling is understood as showing no remorse.

  • Making false confessions under pressure (not understanding the notion of consequences).

  • Being manipulable when testifying and therefore not being considered trustworthy.

  • Wanting to please and failing to understand that they are “shooting themselves in the foot”. Afterwards they can’t understand why they have to go to jail.

More Info about Prof. Dr. Spohr (german text)



4 ) Gela Becker – Introducing a community living project for young adults diagnosed with FASD in Berlin

People with FASD often don’t get a chance to master their traumatic experiences. In many cases this syndrome should be called “fetal torture syndrome”, because patients often experience traumas on top of prenatal damage due to alcohol. Due to prenatal neurological damage, they do not behave according to our standards. They “don’t belong”, offend people and do not find acceptance because of the way they act.

Structural and chemical brain anomalies (frontal lobe syndrome with resulting problems in the executive) prevent them frequently - when turning 18 - from living independently.

Ms. Becker introduced her community living project for young adults with FASD in Berlin und talked about the great difficulties the facility faces, because FASD is not accepted as a disability. Moreover, people affected with FASD frequently do not fall into standard categories – since residential facilities and community living projects are for patients with either mental illnesses or mental disabilities.  Assistance can be requested according to § 53.


5 ) Dr. Martin Zobel – Children affected by risky environments within the family 

Dr. Zobel talked about conditions, children are facing when living in risky environments. They are under great pressure and their living circumstances change their behavior.

 Children affected by risky environments are missing out on important family rituals like having joint meals, going on family outings, having parties at birthdays, Christmas or Easter. 30% of the children become addicted, 10 to 15% abuse alcohol. The cost to society for these children is 36% higher than for other children.

Because of their living situation, children of addicted parents show a changed role behavior.

I was very happy to see, that Dr. Zobel described these children’s deviating role behavior: Frequently these children end up in foster care, while most of foster- or adoptive parents stay in the dark about the reasons why these children always want to act like a hero or a clown. As a rule of thumb, one of the parents – whether mother or father –is co-dependent and covers up for his/her spouse’s behavior.

Excuses are used as cover up, accepting the abusive behavior. The co-dependant is in denial and does everything possible to cover up the addiction. Thus everything evolves around the addicted parent – whereas nothing evolves around their children.

Children of these families frequently play following roles:

Hero, black sheep, dreamer, peacemaker or clown, sometimes even the “invisible” child. It is important to know, that they continue to play this role when adults, which causes great difficulties in relationships.


Finally, Fasworld e.V. succeeded in inspiring everybody – parents, care givers, doctors and experts. Many were able to discover important and problems causing areas in the lives of people affected by FASD and could get in touch with experts on the spot. Once “infected” with the “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder” virus, Fasworld e. V. can often count on these people to support it’s work.


More Info about Dr. Martin Zobel (german text)



Contact Fasworld Germany under:

Fasworld e.V.  
Gisela Michalowski
Hügelweg 4
49809 Lingen
 (0591 – 7106700


Peine, 21.09.2005

Sigrid Reinhardt
Raising Awareness for FASD
Find a more detailed report at



[1] In Germany, legal barriers for the adoption of foster children are very high. Therefore, it is more common in the German foster care system to place children in long term foster families.


 Part 1


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* from:  The best I can be by Liz Kulp                        Copyright 2005 by Reinhardt  www.faskinder.de