What Is Genetic Counseling?

What Does a Genetic Counselor Do?

A genetic counselor is a trained master’s level medical professional who works with individuals and families to:

  • Review genetic testing and diagnoses.
  • Review inheritance patterns.
  • Help identify possible carriers in the family.
  • Discuss the symptoms and features of Fragile X-associated Disorders.
  • When appropriate, review reproductive issues and options.
  • Make referrals and provide professional and emotional support.

Due to the complexity of Fragile X testing, the counselor is essential in the interpretation of results and for providing accurate information regarding Fragile X.

Where Do Genetic Counselors Work?

Genetic counselors can work either independently or are part of a medical team.

Some common settings where genetic counselors work are:

  • Medical genetics departments in a hospital/medical center setting.
  • Prenatal, perinatal or infertility care providers.
  • Specialist medical groups such as oncology, hematology, neurology, cardiology.
  • Multidisciplinary clinics such as craniofacial, skeletal dysplasia, Fragile X clinics.
  • Private practice.
  • Public and community health settings.
  • Genetics laboratories.
  • Support organizations (such as the NFXF).

Who Should Meet With a Genetic Counselor?

Anyone who:

  • Has been identified as being a “Fragile X carrier” or has positive, inconclusive or, in any way unusual Fragile X testing results.
  • Has a family member who has been identified as being a carrier of a Fragile X mutation.
  • Has a child or family member diagnosed with fragile X syndrome or any of the Fragile X-associated Disorders.
  • Has a family or personal  history of undiagnosed intellectual disabilities, autism or learning disorders.
  • Has symptoms of any of the Fragile X-associated Disorders, including infertility, early menopause and/or adult onset neurological or movement disorders.

What Will Likely Occur in a Genetic Counseling Session?

The counselor:

  • Will ask questions regarding the  medical or developmental/learning history of your family members (including children, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, grandparents).
  • Will review the genetic implications of the diagnosis or test results.
  • May identify other family members who may have inherited the gene mutation.
  • May make suggestions or assist with informing or contacting family members regarding testing.
  •  May meet with you either independently or in conjunction with a medical geneticist or other provider, who will likely examine your child or affected family member. If the counseling will be focused on carrier testing, an exam is often not indicated.
  • Can work with you and other family members to coordinate testing throughout the family.
  • Can provide information and help with decision-making regarding reproductive issues and options and coordinate/arrange any further testing.
  • Can make referrals to other providers for medical evaluations and care, prenatal care and  testing, therapies for your child, family counseling, or whatever needs you have at the time.

How Do You Find a Genetic Counselor in Your Area?