CanFASD Research Network’s Strategic Priorities 2020-23

Click here to download the CanFASD Strategic Plan.

CanFASD has been developed and operates under an overall organization purpose and mandate. The CanFASD board has articulated the vision that will result from the work undertaken by the organization and a mission that describes how CanFASD as a whole will go about the business of achieving the vision.

The Strategic Priorities Plan (SPP) works within the organization vision, mission and mandate areas and provides direction from the Board of Directors as to the areas of priority, within a defined period of time, which will help to focus strategies and resources toward achieving the organizations goals. These priorities do not replace or supersede the ongoing operational work but rather identify those things that, in the view of the Board of Directors, are significant current priorities where focus and effort is needed to achieve results that most effectively contribute to reaching the overall organization goals and vision.

The SPP works to ensure alignment of strategies, resources and activities with the current priority issues and opportunities currently facing the organization. The Plan also ensures a positive level of engagement and accountability between the Board, Research Leads, Administration and CanFASD as a whole.

Click here to download the CanFASD Strategic Plan.

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Twenty years ago, Astley, Bailey, Talbot, and Clarren (2000) [1] published a study that revealed how common intimate partner violence (IPV) was amongst mothers of children with FASD. The study showed the importance of thinking broadly about the risk factors and influences of FASD and demonstrated that preventing violence against women is also a preventative measure for FASD. Research efforts since Astley et al.’s study in 2000 have continued to show that IPV is an important factor to consider when supporting pregnant women who use alcohol and other substances [2].

This year, researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health (CEWH) have been conducting a rapid review to understand the complex, multi-directional relationship between IPV and substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide available and accessible research evidence to frontline providers [3]. Since the implementation of stay at home orders and social distancing recommendations, use of substances and experiences of IPV have increased. Canadians have reported an 18% increase in alcohol consumption[5] due to the stress, boredom, and lack of a regular schedule brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic[6]. One in 10 Canadian women are concerned for their safety[4] and calls to the Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver have tripled, demonstrating an increase in help seeking by women. These findings highlight the importance of understanding how public health policies and recommendations that help curb the spread of COVID-19 can be used by partners who cause harm in coercive and controlling ways.

In our efforts to prevent and reduce substance use during pregnancy, collaboration among service providers in substance use and IPV services is essential. Understanding the interconnectedness of these issues and how they are affected by pandemics and disasters can help us address them collectively. As examples, the Learning Network at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children [7] and Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter [8] have developed educational materials to help us understand how to support women who are experiencing IPV during the ongoing pandemic. As we deepen our understanding of the risk factors for FASD to include psychosocial factors such as IPV, materials like these can help us incorporate holistic support into service provisions and better support women who are experiencing violence and aggression during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excerpt from the Learning Network at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children’s 3 Considerations for Supporting Women Experiencing
Intimate Partner Violence During the
COVID-19 Pandemic
  1. Astley, S. J., Bailey, D., Talbot, C., & Clarren, S. K. (2000). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) primary prevention through fas diagnosis: II. A comprehensive profile of 80 birth mothers of children with FAS. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire)35(5), 509–519.
  4. Statistics Canada, Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: Impacts of COVID-19. 2020, Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
  5. NANOS Research, COVID-19 and Increased Alcohol Consumption: NANOS Poll Summary Report. 2020.
  6. Statistics Canada. Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: Impacts of COVID-19. 2020; Available from:

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CanFASD is looking for Artists with FASD

We’re looking for Canadian artists with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) to participate in our annual art competition!

The winner will receive a $500 prize and their art will be featured on the CanFASD holiday cards.

Deadline is November 25, 2020. Be sure to check out our website for full contest details.

You can also browse through the art from our past winners!

Pencil drawing of a deer from Candace Bighead, last year's art competition winner.
This piece was submitted by last year’s competition winner, Candace Bighead

What’s New in FASD Research: September 2020

Here’s a brief summary of some of the latest research published on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

A female doctor consulting with a pregnant patient about FASD prevention at a hospital during the day.
A female doctor consulting with a pregnant patient about FASD prevention at a hospital during the day


Dissemination of Prenatal Drinking Guidelines: A Preliminary Study Examining Personal Alcohol Use Among Midwives in a Southwestern US State

How health care providers communicate with women about alcohol use during pregnancy is very important for FASD prevention. The authors of this study evaluated 61 midwives in a southwestern U.S. state to understand how their personal alcohol use compared to their professional recommendations about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. They found that:

  • All midwives reported that they typically screen a patient for alcohol use during their initial visit
  • Some midwives reported providing advice that does not align with the current accepted guidelines around alcohol consumption during pregnancy (i.e., that the safest option for women is not to consume alcohol). 
    • 8.2% of midwives advised that patients could drink “once in a while”
    • 6.6% of midwives instructed patients to have no more than one drink per day
  • There was no difference between the responses of certified nurse midwives and certified professional midwives 

Key takeaway: Advocating for the health of health care practitioners is very important, as is ensuring appropriate communication to discuss the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy in ways that align with current best-practices, emphasizing that there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Olusanya, O.A., Barry, A. E. (2020). Dissemination of Prenatal Drinking Guidelines: A Preliminary Study Examining Personal Alcohol Use Among Midwives in a Southwestern US State. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.

More Prevention Research

Guideline No. 405: Screening and Counselling for Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy

Physical activity may be an adjuvant treatment option for substance use disorders during pregnancy: A scoping review

Screening for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in Obstetric Settings

Little girl dressed like a doctor examining boy with stethoscope
Little girl dressed like a doctor examining boy with stethoscope


A Survey of Measures Used to Assess Brain Function at FASD Clinics in Canada

Researchers conducted an online survey to better understand the measures that are being used by clinicians in Canada to evaluate brain function in individuals assessed for FASD. They found that:

  • Clinicians reported using 182 unique measures as part of FASD assessments across the country
  • Almost all of the most frequently reported measures align with the 2015 Canadian Diagnostic Guideline
  • Several commonly reported measures are not in the guideline but may be useful to include in future iterations of the guideline as assessment and diagnosis continue to evolve

Key takeaway: The findings from this study underscore the importance of establishing and maintaining consistency within and across FASD assessment. Ongoing training for FASD clinicians, and continued evaluation of the current body of research evidence, will help to guide FASD best practice.

Flannigan, K. R., Coons-Harding, K. D., Turner, O., Symes, B. A., Morrison, K., & Burns, C. (2020). A survey of measures used to assess brain function at FASD clinics in Canada. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne. Advance online publication.

More Diagnosis Research

Association between fetal sex and maternal plasma microRNA responses to prenatal alcohol exposure: evidence from a birth outcome-stratified cohort (Open-Access)

Identifying Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Among South African Children at Aged 1 and 5 years (Open Access)

A little boy is calmly playing with plastic dinosaurs in preschool.
A little boy is calmly playing with plastic dinosaurs in preschool.


Exploring Self-Regulation Strategy Use in Adolescents with FASD

For individuals with FASD, self-regulation is often a challenge. Targeted interventions can help individuals with FASD learn strategies  to self-regulate. Two kinds of strategies that may be helpful for people with FASD are sensory-based strategies (i.e., taste, move, touch, look, listen), aimed at improving emotional state, and non-sensory strategies (i.e., thinking), aimed at self-monitoring arousal levels. Researchers studied the experiences of 23 adolescents with FASD who participated in an intervention program designed to give them the skills and knowledge to improve self-regulation. The researchers found that:

  • Participants increasingly used the skills they learned in this program in their everyday lives; the majority reported using these skills at school
  • Overall, the participants were satisfied with the intervention program
    • 96% of participants enjoyed the program
    • 91% of participants reported that the things they learned in the program helped them in their daily lives
    • Participants reported having increased capacity for their own self-regulation
  • Overall, the participants gravitated towards sensory strategies first to improve self-regulation
    • However, 28% chose non-sensory strategies or a combination between the two 
  • When participants are engaged in the process of identifying strategies, they may think beyond program boundaries to find solutions that work for them

Key Takeaway: Adolescents with FASD can learn and apply strategies to help improve their self-regulation. Co-creating strategies, fostering relationships, and individualizing strategies for each individual are key factors in engaging the individual and encouraging the use of these strategies at home and at school.

Aamena Kapasi , Jacqueline Pei , Kathryn Kryska , Vannesa Joly , Kamaldeep Gill , Sandra Thompson-Hodgetts , Kaitlyn McLachlan , Gail Andrew & Carmen Rasmussen (2020): Exploring Self-Regulation Strategy Use in Adolescents with FASD, Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, DOI: 10.1080/19411243.2020.1822260

More Intervention Research

Association of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure With Psychological, Behavioral, and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Children From the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study

Children With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Outcomes From the Application of an Adapted Alert Program

Mother and child looking at a glass jar with plants inside
Mother and child in nature looking at a glass jar with plants inside

Family Collaboration

Carer Stress in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: The Implications of Data from the UK National Specialist FASD Clinic for Training Carers

Although there are a number of programs in the U.K. to reduce the stress of caregivers in general, there are no programs specifically designed for caregivers of people with FASD. The aim of this study was to understand the stress faced by caregivers of individuals with FASD and to suggest ways that programs can mitigate this stress. The researchers found that:

  • Caregivers reported clinically significant levels of stress, warranting further professional consultation
  • High levels of caregiver stress were related to specific challenges in their child’s adaptive functioning, executive functioning, and behaviours
  • Caregivers need evidence-based interventions focused on helping them to develop skills to manage their child’s functional difficulties in order to reduce stress

Key Takeaway: There is a need to create evidence-based interventions to support caregivers to help reduce the clinically high levels of stress they experience.

Mohamed, A., Carlisle, A.C.S., Livesey, A. C., and Mukherjee, R.A.S. (2020). Carer stress in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: the implications of data from the UK national specialist FASD clinic for training carers. Adoption & Fostering. 44(3):242-254.

This blog is intended to provide a summary of some of the recent literature on FASD. For a more complete and nuanced understanding of these findings, read the full research papers. Please note this is not a comprehensive list of all research published on FASD in September 2020.

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Click here to access the course.

This mini-course provides a self-study option for maternal and child health program staff working with pregnant women and their families. It gives a basic overview of the scope and impacts of alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, as a necessary foundation for supporting women and connecting them to prevention, screening, treatment, and recovery resources.

Click here to access the course.

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CanFASD Webinar Series

The Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary research network, with collaborators, researchers and partners across the nation. It is Canada’s first comprehensive national Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) research network.

CanFASD’s unique partnership brings together many scientific viewpoints to address complexities of FASD, with a focus of ensuring that research knowledge is translated to community and policy action. Their mission is to produce and maintain national, collaborative research designed for sharing with all Canadians, leading to prevention strategies and improved support services for people affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Over the past months, CanFASD has created and shared numerous webinars on FASD. Have you seen them all? If not, take a peek! Webinar Series – April 2020: Dr. Sterling Clarren FASD Research Award winner John Aspler presents ”It’s Ignorant Stereotypes”: Stakeholder Recommendations to Improve Canadian Discussions About FASD. In this presentation Dr. Jacqueline Pei discusses an evidence informed model of intervention for individuals with FASD. This panel discussion dives into the topics of loss, grief, and resilience in relation to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This webinar features presentations from Dr. Dorothy Badry, a CanFASD Research Lead; Myles Himmelreich, a motivational speaker and individual with FASD; and Simon Laplante, a caregiver and member of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee. panel discussion dives into the relationship between Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the criminal justice system. This webinar features Dr. Kaitlyn McLachlan, the Justice Research Lead with the Canada FASD Research Network. panel discussion dives into the topics of self-regulation and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This webinar features presentations from Dr. Jacqueline Pei, the CanFASD Senior Research Lead; Tracy Mastrangelo, a service provider in the field of education; and Jennifer Noah, a caregiver and Executive Director of the Piruqatigiit Resource Centre. this presentation, Dr. Nancy Poole and Lindsay Wolfson of the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health discuss the importance of reframing how we talk about alcohol and substance use with women and girls to improve fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) prevention efforts.