CANFASD: Keep Your Canada Day Celebration Safe and Healthy in 2020

Canada Day is just around the corner! With COVID-19 still a major health concern, the celebrations are going to be a little different this year. Here are some tips for how to keep your celebrations safe and healthy.

1. Follow your local health recommendations

Protect yourself from COVID-19 by following the government health recommendations for your province or territory and the guidelines from your local and regional health authority. Practice safe hygiene and physical distancing. Wear a mask if you are out in public. Where possible, limit the time you spend in crowded public spaces like stores and public transit.

2. Follow Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

If you are planning on drinking alcohol during your Canada Day celebrations try and follow Canada’s low risk guidelines to reduce your long-term health risks. For women that means no more than 2 standard drinks per day and no more than 10 drinks per week. For men that means no more than 3 standard drinks per day and no more than 15 drinks per week. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, the safest option for you and your partner is not to drink alcohol.

3. Celebrate Canada virtually

There are a number of virtual events being held across the country to celebrate Canada Day 2020. Protect yourself from COVID-19 while still getting involved in the festivities by tuning into these events.


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New Webinar: Loss, Grief, and FASD

Register now for our newest webinar presentation on Friday July 10, 2020 at 1:00pm EST. Dr. Dorothy Badry, CanFASD’s Child Welfare Research Lead, will be discussing loss, grief, and resilience in relation to FASD along with members from the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee and the FASD community.

Loss and grief seem to go hand in hand in relation to FASD and this experience deeply impacts the lives of children, youth, adults, families and support networks. Many children become involved in the child protection system early in their lives, which can result in involvement with the justice system in adolescence and adulthood. Mothers experience their own loss and grief regarding their child’s disability. Some mothers frequently lose the opportunity to parent their children, often due to active substance use.

Beyond diagnosis, FASD is a complex psychosocial/emotional experience that requires ongoing supports to navigate life on a daily basis. Individuals with FASD often experience mental health challenges, poverty and homelessness. Other losses for individuals living with FASD include being misunderstood, facing challenges in relationships, ever-present stigma and social exclusion.

FASD often goes unrecognized by many professionals and this contributes to ineffective support, unrealistic expectations, frustration, loss and grief, all of which contribute to higher levels of vulnerability. Individuals and families have cumulative experiences of loss, grief and hurt, particularly when they feel professionals do not understand their experience and the impact of FASD in daily life. Training on FASD and practicing FASD informed care is essential to minimize further marginalization and oppression of individuals and families. The COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in a loss of supports for individuals living with FASD. This loss creates new and unexpected challenges that we will talk about from a personal, professional and parent perspective.

At CanFASD we are constantly aware of the challenges faced by individuals with FASD, their families and their support networks and we continue to be amazed at the capacity for resilience and hope. In this webinar we will use contemporary theory to explore loss and grief as it relates to FASD, and will hear from the voice of an advocate and public speaker living with FASD, and the voices of parents from the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee.  Register now!

This presentation is part of CanFASD’s Webinar Series, one of our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. These webinars are designed to bring evidence-informed research on FASD to Canadians from the comfort of their own homes. Watch our last webinar with CanFASD Senior Research Lead, Dr. Jacqueline Pei.

Article Summary #1: Assessment Measures used in Alberta

This Article Summary is part of our new CanFASD Connect series: Top Articles Summary Series. Over the next several months, we will be bringing you summaries of all the recent research papers from our list of the Top FASD Articles of 2019. You can find the full list and an annotated bibliographies of the studies on our website at


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe a range of lifelong effects associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), including physical, social, emotional, and behavioural impairment. An early FASD diagnosis is essential in mitigating adverse outcomes and connecting individuals and their families with appropriate supports and resources to improve outcomes.

While there have been several approaches developed for FASD diagnosis, the updated Canadian diagnostic guideline, published in December 2015, is now widely used by clinics across Canada. According to the Guideline, the ‘brain’ domain is assessed through the evaluation of 10 domains of functioning including:

  • motor skills;
  • neuroanatomy;
  • cognition;
  • language;
  • academic achievement;
  •  memory;
  • attention;
  • executive functioning;
  • affect regulation; and
  • adaptive behaviour.

The Guideline states that the majority of the brain domains should be assessed using direct measures, including tests and physical measurements. Indirect measures (such as a clinical interview, observation, etc.) should only be used when direct measures are not practical. Due to the complex nature of FASD diagnosis, the Guideline recommends that clinics use a multidisciplinary approach and utilize a battery of tests to accurately diagnose FASD. The 2015 Guideline suggests a number of tests and assessment measures that can be used to measure “brain” function, but clinics may choose to use different tools depending on factors like client demographics, their own personal preference, and the testing circumstances.

The researchers surveyed 19 clinics providing diagnostic services in Alberta, Canada to examine the consistencies and differences in clinical practice. The goal of this study is to bring awareness to areas where measures may be lacking and to identify tools being used in the diagnostic process, including those that are not suggested in the current Canadian guideline.

Main findings

  • There is a wide variety of measures being used across clinics, but there was also substantial overlap across practices.
  • The most commonly reported measures used by clinics are consistent with those suggested in the 2015 Guideline, providing evidence that all clinicians had implemented the Canadian recommendations; however, many additional tools were also reported.
  • The domains most consistently tested across clinics were cognition, adaptive behaviour and executive functions, while motor skills was the least consistent.
  • Some clinics reported the use of outdated and abbreviated tests, which can impact the reliability of test interpretation and conclusions drawn from data.


  • Clinicians should consider using both direct and indirect measures to ensure the results are objective but easily translated into practical recommendations.
  • Clinicians involved in FASD diagnosis need ongoing training to ensure consistency in diagnosis and to stay up to date on the most current and reliable measures and practices.
  • More research should be done to develop a comprehensive and reliable set of psychological tests to increase consistency and accuracy during the FASD diagnostic process, including measures currently used by clinics that are not included in the Canadian guideline.

Take home message
Currently, there is great variety of measures used for FASD diagnosis and assessment among clinicians. These findings highlight the importance of using up-to-date and reliable measures during the assessment process and encouraging on-going training for professionals to ensure consistency in diagnosis. Keeping up with the current best practices is critical in ensuring early and accurate diagnosis for individuals with FASD.

Authors: Kelly D. Coons-Harding, Katherine Flannigan, Colleen Burns, Hasmukhlal Rajani, Brent Symes

Journal: Journal of Population Therapeutics & Clinical Pharmacology

Date: 23 January 2019

Click here for the full article (open access)


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Webinar: Guiding Youth through COVID-19

In partnership with Alberta Health Services, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) is hosting “Guiding Youth through COVID-19: A Webinar for Youth Allies.” This webinar is intended for parents, teachers, coaches, counsellors, healthcare professionals and anyone in a position to support and nurture open discussions with youth about substance use and mental health. It will cover the following topics:

  • Experiences of youth during COVID-19 and implications for substance use and mental health;
  • The impacts of media and social isolation on youth;
  • A mental health literacy approach and how it relates to COVID-19;
  • Guidance for providing youth with mental health support and harm reduction messaging during the pandemic and beyond, and
  • COVID-19 resources for youth.

Webinar date

Monday, June 29, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., EST

Please register for the webinar.

If you have any questions about the event, please contact Nina Salazar (


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The Association Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Alcohol Use During Pregnancy in a Representative Sample of Adult Women

Nov-Dec 2015;25(6):688-95. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.06.007.


Background: The impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on adult alcohol consumption is well-established, but little is known about the association with alcohol use during pregnancy.

Methods: Using data from the 2010 Nevada Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we assessed the relationship between ACEs and alcohol use during pregnancy in a representative sample of 1,987 adult women. An established ACEs scale was used to assess a range of childhood physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and household dysfunction (range, 0-8). Weighted logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between ACE scores and alcohol use during pregnancy after controlling for drinking before pregnancy and other covariates.

Results: Six percent of participants reported drinking alcohol during pregnancy. After controlling for race/ethnicity, age, employment status, smoking status, and prepregnancy alcohol use, increasing ACEs were positively associated with higher odds of alcohol use during pregnancy (1 ACE: adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 2.92; 95% CI, 1.08-7.87), (2-3 ACEs: AOR, 3.52; 95% CI, 1.46-8.48), and (≥4 ACEs: AOR, 4.79; 95% CI, 2.14-10.72). Prepregnancy drinking was also strongly associated with alcohol use during pregnancy (AOR, 11.95; 95% CI, 5.02-28.43).

Conclusions: We found evidence of a dose-response relationship between ACEs and alcohol use during pregnancy that remained even after controlling for prepregnancy drinking and other covariates. Screening women of childbearing age as well as pregnant women for ACEs may be an effective way to identify and address many of the emotional, behavioral, and physical sequelae of childhood adversity.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders, or funders.


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Weren’t able to make CanFASD’s webinar last week? No worries! Check out their recording of the ‘Towards Healthy Outcomes for Individuals with FASD’ presentation

In this presentation, Dr. Jacqueline Pei discusses an evidence-informed model of intervention for individuals with FASD: Towards Healthy Outcomes. Achieving healthy outcomes for individuals with FASD requires working together towards meaningful goals for each individual. Recognizing this CanFASD has produced an evidence-informed model to help us to identify key needs for all humans – with specific consideration for how existing literature can inform our practice. Within this model they present a developmental lifespan perspective, that is enacted within interactive systems, and is strength-based and empowered.