Institute for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Discovery (IFASDD)

A Program Integrating Research, Education & Screening Services

Screening servicesThe Center for Better Beginnings is home to an integrative program to provide education, screening, and research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), and to provide support to families affected by these conditions. Led by Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones, the physician who co-identified fetal alcohol syndrome in 1973, and Program Coordinator Diana Simmes, our Institute for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Discovery (IFASDD) is the nation’s leading epicenter for work to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies and to assist those who are affected. As a multidisciplinary center, IFASSD brings together medical physicians, researchers, parent advocates and educators as a think-tank for this under-recognized disorder.

Screening Services

Detecting Alcohol-based Birth Defects

IFASDD provides screening services to at-risk children who may have been impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD screenings are provided to children receiving services from Kidstart (an early intervention program run by Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego), as well as youth involved with the juvenile justice system. Children who screen positive are then referred to Dr. Jones’ FASD Clinic, which is housed in the Rady Children’s Hospital Genetics-Dysmorphology Clinic, for a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation.

Research & Discovery

Alcohol Research & DiscoveryBroadening the Scope of Understanding

The multidisciplinary nature of IFASDD makes innovative research possible. A few examples of current projects include:

  • A study to determine the national prevalence of FASD.
  • An intervention study evaluating whether choline (a nutritional supplement) can reduce the severity of cognitive deficits associated with FASD.
  • Testing an intervention to reduce risky drinking among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women of reproductive age.

Read more about our pioneering efforts to understand the impact and scope of problems associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

Community Outreach & Advocacy


Community OutreachSupport Groups

IFASDD works closely with the Southern California affiliate of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (SoCal NOFAS) to provide support and services to families who have loved ones affected by a FASD. Parent-caregiver support groups can give families an opportunity to form alliances and learn about others’ experiences with the spectrum of an FASD diagnosis. Learn more about support groups and SoCal NOFAS.

Nine Months Matter: An Annual Community Awareness Event

Every year in September we hold a public awareness walk and festival to promote alcohol-free pregnancies. Our goal is to educate the public that there is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during a pregnancy, and to eliminate developing babies’ exposure to alcohol. We understand that there are typically three reasons why a woman might drink alcohol during pregnancy: (1) she didn’t know about the harmful effects of alcohol; (2) she didn’t know she was pregnant at the time she drank; or (3) she needed help to stop drinking. By increasing public awareness about the devastating effects of alcohol on a developing baby, we can reduce unintentional exposure as well address drinking problems. Find out more about our Nine Months Matter: Walkfest for Healthy, Alcohol-Free Pregnancies, and you can help the 2017 campaign.

Professional Workshops

Trainings are offered to a range of audiences in the San Diego region including physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, attorneys, probation officers, students, and educators. Topics include an overview of the FASD phenotype and clinical presentation, the neurobehavioral aspects and effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on educational functioning, and a summary of current research, interventions and parent perspectives. Our in-service workshops are specifically tailored to professionals working with communities affected by FASD, and custom designed for greatest impact. If you are interested in scheduling a FASD workshop, let us know by filling out our Workshop Request Form.

Alcohol in Pregnancy

FASD Understanding the Spectrum of Effects

Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and neurodevelopmental disabilities in the United States. It can cause developmental, cognitive, and behavioral problems that last a lifetime, and that are known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASD is a range of effects that can occur when a developing baby is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Many people don’t fully understand how devastating alcohol is to a developing brain, and what a possible FASD diagnosis means.

We’ve put together resources for the community to understand alcohol’s harmful effects on a developing baby, and a guide to the spectrum of FASD diagnoses.

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