One in nine children are born with it, it is estimated that one-per cent of Canadians are affected by it, 300,000 Canadians are living with it and it costs taxpayers $4 billion per year to provide services for individuals affected by it.
What is “it”?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, otherwise known as FASD.
Alcohol causes brain damage in the developing baby during pregnancy, resulting in a variety of disabilities. These disorders can range from mild to severe and outnumber the incidents of autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and sudden infant death syndrome combined. Drinking during pregnancy can result in a wide range of disabilities for children. The disabilities associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders persist throughout life and place heavy emotional and financial burdens on individuals, their families and society.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are often called invisible disabilities, therefore only a team of specialists are able to correctly diagnose FASD because physical characteristics may not always be noticeable. Often times the effects of FASD are confused with other developmental delays and behavioral difficulties. Most often the neurobehavioral characteristics such as intellectual disabilities, speech and language delays and poor social skills are often noticed by educators once the children enter the school system. Severe effects of alcohol exposure during pregnancy cause significant physical, brain and central nervous system disabilities along with cognitive, behavioral and emotional issues. People with FASD may require lifelong supports to help them with these difficulties. These disabilities often lead to mental health problems, trouble with the law, dropping out of school, unemployment, addictions and even homelessness.
There is no cure for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, those diagnosed with FASD will live with it for their entire lives, however the birth defects and developmental disabilities that result from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy.
International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day is recognized every year on the ninth day of the ninth month signifying the nine months of pregnancy. The message is simple, not just on Sept. 9 but everyday women who are, who may be, or who are trying to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol.
There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy and no safe time to drink during pregnancy therefore, no alcohol during pregnancy is the best choice for having a healthy baby.
For more information on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, contact Monia Russell with the McMan Youth Family and Community FASD outreach program at 780-542-3713 or Marta Oliver with Catholic Social Services FASD support services at 780-352-5535.
— Submitted by Monia Russell