FASD is often misdiagnosed for other disorders. The leading disorder that these kids are misdiagnosed with is ADHD. The reason for this is often two fold. 1) Many of the behavioral symptoms of FASD are very similar to ADHD. 2) FASD and ADHD can be co morbid (meaning they can exist together). According to Dr. Larry J. Burd PHD and prominent researcher on FAS/D - 60 to 75% of children diagnosed with an FASD will also have ADHD.
So why not just treat ADHD and not worry about FASD? Because the triggers for each are in two different areas of the brain and many traditional ADHD meds are not as effective in those with FASD, they may not work at all, and can even make the behaviors worse.
What is ADHD?
Types of ADHD include the hyperactive-impulsive type, the inattentive type, and a type that is a combination of both. The severity of ADHD varies among children, even siblings, so no two children will have exactly the same symptoms. Researchers believe that there may be either a chemical or electrical problem in the brain caused by abnormalities in the development of the brain or genetic differences. Environmental factors such as viruses, harmful chemicals, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco during pregnancy are also considered as possible causes of ADHD. These factors may affect normal brain development, which lead to the development of symptoms associated with ADHD.
Feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while seated
Running, climbing, or getting up in situations where quiet behavior is expected
Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question
Having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns
May appear to not be listening or easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
Often failing to pay attention to details, and making careless mistakes
Rarely following instructions carefully, and losing or forgetting things like toys, pencils, books, or other tools needed for a task
Often skipping from one uncompleted activity to another
(Source: The Handbook of Mental Illness - NAMI)