Glossary

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Parietal lobes
Part of the brain’s cerebral cortex. The parietal lobe governs how you recognize and put things together in terms of order and structure, how you remember planned purposeful movement (such as dressing oneself), and know the relation of your body (left side, right side). It also processes information to create 3-dimensional images of what you see and tells you where objects are in space. Consequently, people with FASD may have problems ordering information. They may see a “flat” world without depth perception. They also don’t have “planfulness” in their movements (like throwing a ball versus throwing it to someone).

Partial FAS (pFAS)
A diagnostic term for people who have 1) confirmed maternal alcohol exposure, plus 2) some characteristic facial anomalies, and 3) one of the following: evidence of growth retardation OR evidence of central nervous system neurodevelopmental abnormalities OR evidence of a complex pattern of behavior or cognitive abnormalities that can’t be traced to family background or environmental conditions alone. Some people mistakenly think the term “partial” means a “less severe” case of FAS. (That is not true.)

Pediatrician
A physician who specializes in treating children, typically newborns through teenagers. A pediatrician may be a “generalist” or a “specialist.”

Perinatal
The period beginning after the 28th week of pregnancy and ending 28 days after birth.

Perseveration
Abnormal, compulsive, or uncontrollable repetition of a particular response—such as a word, phrase, gesture, action, behavior, or movement—despite the absence or cessation of a stimulus. Children with FASD may perseverate because of their slow cognitive pace or because they have difficulty stopping and switching an activity or behavior.

Philtrum
The vertical groove on the external surface of the upper lip. This is diminished or absent in people with FAS and partial FAS.

Physical therapist
A licensed health care professional who helps improve a person’s level of overall physical fitness—whether it’s to remediate or mitigate an existing impairment or to lower the risk of a future impairment, functional limitation, or disability. Children with FASD often have skeletal deformities and a combination of hypotonia (low muscle tone) and hypertonia (high muscle tone). Physical therapy helps normalize muscle tone and develop strength, as well as improve posture, balance, coordination, and ambulation (with or without assistive devices like braces).

Postnatal
Occurring after birth.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A disorder that can occur after experiencing or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent crime. If a person continues to relive the trauma, have nightmares, sleeping difficulties, flashbacks, or feelings of detachment to the point that it interferes with daily life, the person is said to have PTSD.

Prefrontal cortex
The cerebral cortex’s frontal area, which governs executive functioning. This area, located right behind your forehead, can be damaged in people with FASD. To see a picture of the parts of the brain that are susceptible to prenatal alcohol damage, click here.

Prenatal
Occurring before birth.

Primary care physician
The first doctor you see for a medical problem. With children, it’s usually a pediatrician. With adults, it may be a family practitioner or general internist. A primary care physician covers a broad spectrum of both preventive and curative health care.

Primary disability
When discussing FASD, primary disabilities are those caused by structural and functional brain damage.

Proprioception
The sense of where your body is positioned in space. Some children with FASD don’t know where their body “is” in space, and as a result, may run into walls or other objects to get their bearings.

Psychiatrist
A medical doctor who specializes in the study, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. A psychiatrist may also prescribe medications to lessen the symptoms of certain mental disorders.

Psychologist
A PhD-level scientist or health care worker who is trained in methods of psychological analysis, mental processes, therapy, and research. A psychologist frequently administers assessments and provides counseling, but he or she is not licensed to prescribe medications.

Psychometrist
A person who administers, scores, and interprets tests of intelligence, aptitude, achievement, and other psychological tests to provide information to teachers, counselors, or other specified parties. A psychometrist has a master’s degree in psychology or education.

Reactive Attachment Disorder
Breakdown of a child's social ability, associated with the failure of the child to bond with a caretaker in infancy or early childhood (typically within the first 3 years of life). This can be caused by many factors, ranging from child neglect to the child being hospitalized for severe medical problems. Children may display indiscriminate social extroversion or show mistrust of nearly everyone as they grow older.

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