We’ve been told that over 80% of the kids in care in our region have had some sort of exposure to alcohol or drugs, so it’s been suggested on multiple occasions that we educate ourselves on FASD. FASD – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – refers to the range of effects on an individual from prenatal exposure to alcohol.
A rough estimate based on studies in the U.S. is that 9 of every 1000 live births fall in the FASD range to varying degrees. And that range is wide, according to the reading I’ve done on it so far, including lifelong physical, mental, behavioural difficulties and learning disabilities. Some people will have visible physical differences, but the spectrum is really mostly about damaged brain function.
A difficulty with FASD is late diagnosis. Effects are often not detected until kids get to school or in their teens, when there is greater interaction with other people. Challenges include executive functioning (i.e. judgement, planning, consequences, memory), communication, impaired balance and coordination, and sensory deficits.
Early intervention and treatment are key to helping these kids reach their full potential and steer them away from things like criminal behavior, unemployment and incomplete education later in life. When the condition is identified, a village of family, educators, medical staff and community resources can be assembled to provide services, treatment, revised parenting approach and education specific to their learning style.
On the preventative side, please know that there is no proven safe amount of alcohol consumption for women during pregnancy. In the few websites and fact sheets I’ve looked at, I have not seen a claim otherwise. Just err on the side of caution and keep your consumption at zero.
Because our child is coming from the under care of the CAS, I dare guess that he has already been assessed for the disorder, helping us get a head start from (our) day one on rounding up our support team. For every one of these kids, though, there are probably so many more out there off the radar of Children’s Aid who are suffering from the effects of exposure and are not receiving the response and compassion that they need. My hope is that parents and school teachers become more educated about the behaviours to look out for and how to address them.