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Jacqueline R Pei
Christina M Rinaldi
Carmen Rasmussen
Valerie Massey
Donald Massey


Memory, fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, learning



Previous research indicates that children with FASD have both memory and learning deficits. However, there is no consensus about whether the deficits identified from a pattern of impairment, and whether this pattern is consistent with the current theories regarding the organization of memory. Thus, the goal of this study was to further explore memory functions and expose possible patterns that may exist in children with FASD.


The Children’s Memory Scale (CMS) was used to measure visual and verbal memory, as well as learning and encoding, among 30 children with FASD (ages 9-16 years). Functioning was conceptualized through use of a model of working memory.1


A  significant  difference  between  types  of  verbal  memory  in  the  FASD  sample  was  identified. Specifically, recall of word pairs was found to be more impaired than that for stories. In addition to this, recall  of  immediate  word  pairs  was  significantly  more  impaired  than  that  for  delayed  word  pairs, implying the presence of encoding deficits in this area.


Children and adolescents with FASD displayed specific types of verbal memory deficits and these deficits were greater for immediate rather than delayed memory. These data are consistent with previous studies that describe deficits in immediate memory, and suggest that deficits in delayed memory are better accounted for by encoding deficits. Furthermore, their greatest difficulty arose with those items in which the phonological loop was required, which would have facilitated learning though internal recitation and adequate phonological storage. Further research into these distinctions in memory is warranted, as is exploration into educational techniques that could account for delayed encoding in children with FASD.

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