Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Sexually Inappropriate Behaviors: A Call on Sex Offender Treatment Clinicians to Become Informed

  • Jerrod Brown
  • Laura Cooney-Koss
  • Diane Harr
  • Diane Neal
  • Charolette Gerth Haanen


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure is a permanent condition that can include a range of adaptive, cognitive, social, and physical impairments. Not only can symptoms have a deleterious impact on global functioning, but can increase the likelihood of entanglement in the criminal justice system. This can sometimes involve behaviors associated with sexual misconduct. This article provides a brief overview of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the relationship between the disorder and inappropriate sexual behavior, treatment of this population, and areas for future research.

Keywords: fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, sex offender treatment, sex offending, training 

Author Biographies

Jerrod Brown

Jerrod Brown, MA, MS, MS, MS, is the Treatment Director for Pathways Counseling Center, Inc. Pathways provides programs and services benefiting individuals impacted by mental illness and addictions. Jerrod is also the founder and CEO of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS), and the Editor-in-Chief of Forensic Scholars Today (FST) and the Journal of Special Populations (JSP). Jerrod holds graduate certificates in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Other Health Disabilities (OHD), and Traumatic-Brain Injuries (TBI).  

Laura Cooney-Koss

Laura Cooney-Koss, Psy.D. M.CJ. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Delaware and New Jersey. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Forensic Associates of Delaware, LLC. The psychologists in this practice specialize in conducting psychological evaluations for a variety of legal referral questions and provide training for the community and professionals on forensic clinical issues. Laura specializes in the assessment of adults and juveniles who have engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviors and has regularly conducted these evaluations for over 15 years. She also testifies in court for these cases. Additionally, Laura provides trainings on the topic of sexual offending behaviors. 

Diane Harr

Diane Harr, Ph.D., is the Coordinator of Graduate Special Education Programs at Concordia University, St. Paul. Previously, Diane taught and coordinated special education programs at the K-12 grade levels in a suburban school district. Her public-school experience has included assessment, identification and implementing instructional strategies geared to meet the needs of all students including those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Partial Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, and other neurological and/or functional impairments. Her focus has been on providing inclusive educational services for students with disabilities through collaboration and team teaching. 

Diane Neal

Diane Neal, MS, LPCC is currently the Executive Director of Project Pathfinder, Inc, an outpatient sex offender treatment program. With 30 years in the mental health field, she focused on varying degrees of special needs and high risk mental health issues and since 2007 has directed programs specializing in problematic sexual behaviors with youth and adults. She is a member of ATSA, (Association for the treatment of Sexual Abusers), serves on the executive board of MNATSA (Minnesota Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers) and is an Advisory Council Member for the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with mental Illness (PAIMI). 

Charolette Gerth Haanen

Charlotte Gerth Haanen, PhD, LP has worked in the field of psychology with a variety of populations, including children, adolescents, and adults. This has involved work with at risk and adjudicated adolescents, children with emotional and behavioral disorders, adults with serious and persistent mental illness, and both adults and children with developmental disabilities. Services provided have included individual and group therapy, testing, and clinical assessments. 

She is currently employed at a medium custody facility completing psychosexual assessments and making treatment recommendations for a sex offender treatment program. She has also worked as an adjunct professor for online educational programs since 2007.