Guidelines for writing and talking about FASD

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Click here to download the document.

The purpose of this document is to assist those writing and talking about FASD and the issues related to the disability to use the same statistics, framing of topics, and language. The intended outcome, over time, will be an improved understanding by the reader/listener with consistent and respectful FASD messaging.

This is a living document and areas will be updated as it is informed by emerging research.

In order to promote a common language about FASD and to minimize misinterpretation of key issues, we have drafted a suggested definition of FASD. Standard definitions are needed to ensure consistency in administrative, clinical, and research operations. Therefore, we recommend that this definition be used by governments and policy makers across Canada to promote standardized and consistent language when discussing FASD.

Other Key Communication Notes:

 Dignity promotion among individuals with FASD and their families:

o This theme should be emphasized in any awareness or prevention programs and an attempt not to make guilt-ridden programs (Manitoba FASD Coalition, 2016)
o When using images, refrain from using photos of fetuses, pregnant bellies without heads and naked women (Canada FASD Research Network, 2018)
o Refrain from stigma-inducing language and use ‘dignity-promoting’ words and phrases. Use language guides resources as a reference (Manitoba FASD Coalition, 2016)

 Becoming FASD-Informed:

o Practice FASD-informed approaches comprised of awareness, strength-based and person-centred (Rutman, 2016)
o Use accurate and empirically proven facts.
o Refrain from using the statement that FASD is “100% preventable” as this statement greatly oversimplifies the issue.
o In Canada, the terminology ‘Indigenous’ mirrors constitutional language (Retzlaff, 2005) and includes: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples; When referring to

specific groups or cultures, ensure to use the appropriate distinction.


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Jeff Noble: FREE FASD video training series

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If you haven’t heard, our friend Jeff Noble is hosting a free FASD video mini training series.

A message from Jeff:

It’s my Favorite time of the Year… Workshop Week!
I know you’re busy but I know getting some FASD education can save you a lot of frustration, and your sanity! To Download the materials that go along with the video. Make sure to register here :

After the video, I will do a Facebook live so we can chat about the video and go deeper into the talking points.
If you haven’t joined this journey just click here to visit Jeff on Facebook and if you have any questions about the videos please email Jeff at

How dealing with past trauma may be the key to breaking addiction

What’s your poison, people sometimes ask, but Gabor Maté doesn’t want to ask what my poison is, he wants to ask how it makes me feel. Whatever it is I’m addicted to, or ever have been addicted to, it’s not what it is but what it does – to me, to you, to anyone. He believes that anything we’ve ever craved helped us escape emotional pain. It gave us peace of mind, a sense of control and a feeling of happiness.

And all of that, explains Maté, reveals a great deal about addiction, which he defines as any behaviour that gives a person temporary relief and pleasure, but also has negative consequences, and to which the individual will return time and again. At the heart of Maté’s philosophy is the belief that there’s no such thing as an “addictive personality”. And nor is addiction a “disease”. Instead, it originates in a person’s need to solve a problem: a deep-seated problem, often from our earliest years that was to do with trauma or loss.

Maté, a wiry, energetic man in his mid-70s, has his own experience of both childhood trauma and addiction, more of which later. Well-known in Canada, where he lives, he gives some interesting reasons why Britain is “just waking up to me” and his bestselling book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. There’s a generational conflict here, he says, around being open about past trauma: he cites Princes William and Harry opening up about their mother’s death, and says it’s something the Queen’s generation would never have done. He applauds the new approach: “I think they [the princes] are right to be leading and validating that sense of enquiry, without which life is not worth living.”

The infamous British stiff upper lip is something Maté has watched with fascination over the years. Born of our imperial past, he says, it was maintained for as long as there was something to show for it. Boarding school culture and traumatic childhoods played out into dominance of other countries and cultures, giving the “buttoned-up” approach inherent value. But once the empire crumbled, lips quavered.

“With rising inequality and all the other problems there are right now,” he says, “people are having to question how they live their lives. People in Britain are beginning to realise they paid a huge price internally for all those suppressed emotions.”

And addictive behaviour, though damaging in the medium or long term, can save you in the short term. “The primary drive is to regulate your situation to something more bearable.” So rather than some people having brains that are wired for addiction, Maté argues, we all have brains that are wired for happiness. And if our happiness is threatened at a deep level, by traumas in our past that we’ve not resolved, we resort to addictions to restore the happiness we truly crave.

He speaks from experience: Maté is a physician who specialised in family practice, palliative care and, finally, addiction medicine. He became a workaholic and lived with ADHD and depression until, in his 40s and 50s, he began to unravel the root cause – and that took him all the way back to Budapest, where he was born in January 1944. Two months later, the Nazis occupied Hungary: his mother took him to the doctor because he wouldn’t stop crying. “Right now,” the doctor replied, “all the Jewish babies are crying.” This is because, explains Maté, what happens to the parent happens to the child: the mothers were terrified, the babies were suffering, but unlike their mothers they couldn’t understand what the suffering was about.


Read the full article here.


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Prevention Campaigns around the World: NOFAS Stamp Out Stigma Campaign


Join the NOFAS Stamp Out Stigma Campaign!

Join NOFAS and the NOFAS Circle of Hope to stop the stigma of birth mothers of children with FASD and the stigma of all individuals and families living with the disorders.

Preventing FASD and helping individuals living with FASD is challenging! One of the biggest barriers is the stigma associated with FASD and drinking during pregnancy.  Join NOFAS and the NOFAS Circle of Hope to stop the stigma of birth mothers of children with FASD and all children, adults, and families touched by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Watch the Video!

Read the NOFAS Statement on Stigma

This in-depth statement addresses the stigma of birth mothers, adoptive/foster parents, and caregivers, those with FASD.

Take Action!

NOFAS and NOFAS Circle of Hope members are working together to Stamp Out Stigma and they need YOUR help. Here’s what you can do:

  • Take the pledge on (CLOSED) to help stop the stigma of birth mothers of children with FASD and of individuals and families living with FASD .
  • Post one or more of the NOFAS anti-stigma statements from the pledge on your social media accounts and ask friends to like and share.
  • Join NOFAS for the Stamp Out Stigma Twitter Chat and repost the tweets.
  • Change your language as you write and talk about FASD. Use the term “prenatal alcohol exposure” rather than “maternal alcohol exposure.”
  • Speak up when someone says something that is shaming or insensitive of women, families, or individuals with an FASD.
  • Don’t support legislation that seeks to incarcerate or punish women for drinking alcohol while pregnant.
  • Support efforts that will increase access to addiction treatment for women and their children.
  • Tell your friends about the NOFAS anti-stigma campaign and webpage.
  • Urge researchers and clinicians in your circle or discipline to use language that counters the stigma of FASD.

For more information please visit


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How to Explain an FASD Diagnosis to your Child

  • What it means to be diagnosed with FASD
  • How your child might react to the diagnosis
  • Tips on how to explain FASD to your child
  • Focusing on their strengths
  • How to alleviate blame and anger toward the birthmother (or how to approach the conversation if you are the birthmother)
  • Links to helpful resources such as storybooks, to help you explain FASD


To read the full resource, visit the ‘Caregivers’ section of the CanFASD website.


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