The neurocognitive deficits are manifested in cognitive or developmental deficits or discrepancies, executive functioning deficits (a significant issue for older children), and motor functioning delays (most commonly seen in younger children).

Neurocognitive impairment:
Neurocognitive deficits
Low IQ or developmental delay
Executive functioning deficits
Impaired learning, memory or specific learning problems (esp. visual-spatial and math)

Impairment in global intellectual performance (i.e., IQ of 70 or below, or a standard score of 70 or below on a comprehensive developmental assessment);  However, only about 25 percent of children with a FASD will have IQ or developmental scores below 70. The majority of children will score in the low average to borderline range of intellectual functioning.

Impairment in executive functioning (e.g., poor planning and organization; inflexibility; difficulty with behavioral inhibition)

Impairment in learning (e.g., lower academic achievement than expected for intellectual level; specific learning disability); Memory impairment (e.g., problems remembering information learned recently; repeatedly making the same mistakes; difficulty remembering lengthy verbal instructions)

Impairment in visual-spatial reasoning (e.g., disorganized or poorly planned drawings or constructions; problems differentiating left from right).

NOTE: These particular types of learning and memory problems often lead caregivers and educators to mistakenly assume the child is being defiant or willfully disobeying rather than having genuine difficulty; the “can’t vs won’t” error.


Problems with self-regulation are shown in younger children in problems with self-soothing and sleep and in older children with behavioral regulation.

Impaired self-regulation:

Self-regulation problems

Self-soothing, sleep
Difficulty managing mood
Behavior management issues
Attention problems (esp. shifting attention)
Poor impulse control

Impairment in mood or behavioral regulation (e.g., mood lability; negative affect or irritability; frequent behavioral outbursts)

Attention deficit (e.g., difficulty shifting attention; difficulty sustaining mental effort)

Impairment in impulse control (e.g., difficulty waiting turn; difficulty complying with rules)

Self regulation problems can have significant effects on social skills as well as educational implications.


Problems with adaptive skills can affect social interactions as well as the ability to live independently.

Impairment in of the usual adaptive functioning domains as manifested by:

Difficulty learning/Delayed adaptive skills

Communication deficits, especially social communications such a understanding idioms or jokes
Problems with social skills
Problems with self care or daily living skills
Motor issues in younger children

Communication deficit (e.g., delayed acquisition of language; difficulty understanding spoken language)

Impairment in social communication and interaction (e.g., overly friendly with strangers; difficulty reading social cues; difficulty understanding social consequences)

Impairment in daily living skills (e.g., delayed toileting, feeding, or bathing; difficulty managing daily schedule)

Impairment in motor skills (e.g., poor fine motor development; delayed attainment of gross motor milestones or ongoing deficits in gross motor function; deficits in coordination and balance).

Source: Based on criteria from DSM 5