International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day
By Naomi Giuliano, Health Promoter at NorWest CHC's
September 9, 2019 marks 20 years since the first International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. Over the years, beginning even before the first FASD Awareness Day, our understanding of FASD has expanded and continues to develop. Today, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability. Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges
International FASD Awareness Day is observed across the world. This day - the ninth day of the ninth month – was chosen to represent the importance of avoiding alcohol consumption during the nine months of pregnancy. It is a day devoted to raising awareness of FASD to improve prevention of FASD and diagnosis and support for individuals with FASD. FASD awareness is multi-layered:
It means awareness that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a disability caused by prenatal alcohol exposure and has a range of effects that are lifelong and varied.
It means awareness that for women, alcohol consumption has particular risks.
It means awareness that there is no known safe amount or type of alcohol or safe time to drink during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is always a risk.
It means awareness that there are many reasons why a woman might drink during pregnancy and that women deserve information and support, not blame and stigma.
It means awareness that FASD is a disability that affects individuals differently and can lead to challenges and adverse outcomes, particularly if undiagnosed.
It means awareness that people living with FASD have both strengths and challenges, and they and their caregivers deserve and benefit from respect, support and resources.
It means awareness that there are ways for everyone to take part in prevention and intervention efforts.
Think about how you may be able to support the women in your community who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or may become pregnant:
- Offer attractive “mocktails” or serve non-alcoholic options at gatherings and dinners
- Hold celebrations in a family setting rather than at a bar
- Join women in not having alcohol so they feel supported
- Substitute any activities that may trigger alcohol consumption with a healthier alternative
- Find ways to help the pregnant women in your life de-stress, perhaps with a walk, some time outdoors, or a listening ear
- Encourage all women’s efforts to have a safe and healthy pregnancy
- Ask the women in your life what you can do to help her have a healthy baby
- Be there to offer support to women when they are having a hard time
- Provide a safe, non-judgmental space for women to seek support with their health goals before, during, and after pregnancy
International FASD Awareness Day will be marked in Thunder Bay by an annual FASD awareness event that will take place on Friday, September 6 at local Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores. Staff and volunteers from NorWest Community Health Centres, Children's Aid Society of the District of Thunder Bay, Children's Centre Thunder Bay, Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, and the Fetal Alcohol Support and Information Network will be sharing information with Thunder Bay residents to raise awareness of FASD at Thunder Bay LCBO locations between the hours of 12-6pm.
NorWest Community Health Centres is committed to education, prevention, and diagnosis with regard to FASD and provides a variety of FASD-specific services and programming. For information about our FASD programs and services, contact Maureen Parkes, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Coordinator at NorWest Community Health Centres, at (807)626-8485 or email@example.com.
Naomi Giuliano is a Health Promoter at NorWest Community Health Centres.
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