Lunch and Learn separates myths and facts on FASD

Understanding how the effects of brain differences may affect a client’s life and behaviour can be complex. 

That’s why the Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG) hosted a lunch and learn event January 31 aimed at helping front-line workers to better understand how Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder affects the brain over the course of a client’s life.

It’s important to separate myths from facts,” said Lisa Rogozinsky, of the Edmonton Fetal Alcohol Network (EFAN). “The highest risk women are in their 30s, successful, earning $50,000 a year or more. Due to stereotypes, these women may not be asked if they drank during pregnancy so their children may be being mis-diagnosed as autistic, having ADHD, or other neurological disorders.” 

“People with FASD can have those conditions, but we have to understand the brain differences first,” said Rogozinsky. “These are the children who get coded early on and the average dropout rate in North America for them is Grade 6.” 

People with FASD have fallen through the cracks in every system because we have not recognized this disability, said Rogozinsky. 

FASD affects at least 4% of people in Canada and occurs in all segments of society.

This results in brain differences that are lifelong. 

Because of the spectrum nature of FASD, there is no such thing as severe or mild cases.

The spectrum includes each person’s strengths and challenges, all of which are unique to each person.

FASD can affect a person’s ability to organize, plan, put things into sequences and organize behaviour. 

“Behaviour is a symptom of the disability. It’s a way for people with FASD to communicate to us what their needs are,” said Rogozinsky

In Edmonton, only 45 adults a year are diagnosed because there is only one clinic providing this lengthy and comprehensive evaluation.

Most of the people in Edmonton who have FASD probably don’t have a diagnosis, said Rogozinsky. “We need to ask: How am I going to change their environment so they can be safe and successful? We are not changing them. We are not changing the brain differences.”

“We create the disability when we fail to meet the person’s needs. We need to work differently,” she said.  “The main thing to ask is: How do we help and support this person to be successful?” 

The Lunch and Learn presentation was webcast and recorded. The full session can be viewed here.