Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder affects more people than you think
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be avoided if expectant mothers just say no to alcohol during the entire length of their pregnancy. Submitted photo
It’s not easy to spot an individual with a fetal alcohol spectrum Disorder (FASD).
They don’t necessarily have physical limitations, so to you and me they look like any other person walking the streets or attending school.
Alas, invisibility is one of the side effects of an FASD.
“People expect them to be able to do things that they are not capable of doing because it’s a brain-based disease,” said Sandra Overs.
A mother of two adult children with FASD, Overs will be the guest speaker at an FASD Awareness Day luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 9, at the Wakamow Sportsman’s Centre.
The cost to attend the luncheon – hosted by the Moose Jaw South Central Regional Intersectoral Committee and Drug Strategy – is $5. Organizers are hoping to attract a number of young women who are pregnant or expect to be pregnant.
Christine Boyczuk, the Regional Intersectoral Coordinator of the Moose Jaw South Central Region, also expects to see a number of parents of children who may have been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
“We think it's good for people to try and understand the kinds of things that can be helpful.
“In the past we have really focused on the message of no safe time to drink alcohol and we thought this time there are people living with FASD and we'd like to share some of the best practices,” noted Boyczuk.
According to the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, as many as five in 100 people have FASD. Moreover, it is estimated that 300,000 people living in Canada are living with FASD.
“The public requires a clear and accurate explanation about the harmful effects of alcohol and the fetus,” said Boyczuk.
Therefore, Overs will be speaking about the prevention of FASD and the things that have helped her – as a parent – deal with the disease.
She noted that persons with an FASD have issues with memory, decision-making and organization.
“People have expectations of them and then when they don't meet those expectations (people) think they're doing things willfully, like they are doing things on purpose,” Overs said. “It's just that they can't do (certain) things.”
Overs added that when her kids were diagnosed with FASD in their teenage years, it helped them tremendously, especially in school.
She noted that sometimes it’s easier to break things down, such as an essay, for kids with FASD. That way the cognitive ability in their brains is better able to deal with the task.
There are more support systems in schools for children with FASD than children with, for example, attention deficit disorder, which is a common misdiagnosis.
However, there is one thing Overs said that is especially important for parents of kids with FASD.
“Don’t give up on your kids,” she said. “They always need a champion beside them to help them through all the different challenges they have.”
Those challenges are avoidable if expectant mothers say no to alcohol during the entire term of their pregnancy.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks