September 9th was recognized as International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum (FASD) Day. FASD is a lifelong disability caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. FASD disorders fall on a spectrum, as alcohol will affect fetuses differently depending on where they are in their development cycle, the amount of alcohol that is consumed and the genetic makeup of both parents. These disorders can range from mild to severe and may include mental, physical, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities. The most recent studies have corrected misinformation from the past, and researchers tell us that there is no known safe amount of any kind of alcohol at any point during pregnancy.
The first International FASD Day was celebrated in 1999 in support of those affected by FASD. Recognition of this day originally came from the connection between a Canadian family and an American family, both of whom had children diagnosed with FASD. Their work to create awareness and support confirmed that FASD has no boundaries and affects people of all cultures and walks of life. Soon, the supportive conversation around FASD stretched across states, provinces, and professions. Caregivers, professionals, and individuals diagnosed with FASD became interested in dedicating September 9th (a month and day symbolic of the nine months a woman spends carrying their child) to educating their communities about the dangers of drinking while pregnant. The most important piece of this international bond was the passion each person shared to ensure individuals with FASD felt supported, rather than marginalized or alienated.
Based on the most current research, about 4% of the Canadian population is reported to have FASD. However, many researchers believe this number to be higher. FASD tends to be underdiagnosed and is often misdiagnosed due to its close relation with other developmental disorders and/or underreporting of prenatal alcohol exposure. The disorder lasts a lifetime, but people with FASD can be very successful when provided with the supports they need.
Support and intervention are where programs such as the Lakeland Centre for FASD (LCFASD) come in. The Centre’s mission is “to establish and ensure that accurate information about FASD, effective prevention, diagnostic and support services are available in the Lakeland area.” The LCFASD has dedicated 21 years to supporting affected individuals and their families through their own diagnostic team, adult and youth outreach workers, and a ‘Mothers to Be’ mentorship program. The 2nd Floor Women’s Recovery Centre shares their building, as well. This recovery centre serves as an intervention for women who may or may not be pregnant and are recovering from addictions. It has become a model facility for other organizations across Canada. Programs at the centre have proven to be incredibly effective in providing support for individuals. Support is further offered through their satellite offices in Bonnyville, Lac La Biche, and St. Paul to provide services for a larger number of individuals across the Lakeland.
The LCFASD started as a small group of community members with a passion to support those with FASD in 1994. Since then, it has expanded to become one of the most reputable FASD support centres in Alberta and has even been nationally recognized for its novel support services.
LCFASD typically holds Awareness BBQ and Mocktail Challenge on September 9th in person, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team found creative ways to spread awareness. LCFASD will be hosting a Virtual Mocktail Challenge throughout the month of September, Coloring Contest for the kids, Poster Campaign, Mocktail-To-Go Bags that will be delivered to community partners, and Facebook live events. Be sure to keep an eye out for our signs and social media updates!