There is strong evidence and consensus among families and professionals that individuals affected by prenatal alcohol exposure have unique needs at each stage of development. Case Managers and caregivers of affected individuals need relevant and effective service to be able to sustain the energy and skill set needed to “hang in there” with these challenging situations.
Children, adolescents and adults with FASD have complex medical, psychological and social needs. They are difficult to provide stability for and existing resources are not often user friendly for these families. These sessions will provide a framework for considering these issues.
Many outcomes for individuals with FASD have been negatively affected by the lack of understanding of their complex neurodevelopmental disorder.
This is an advanced workshop for participants who have had previous training in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Participants will have learned in previous training how to both recognize and understand the complicated issues that surround FASD. This session will give the participants an opportunity to learn how to plan for their care and to recognize the impacts that the developmental trajectory of FASD has on case planning.
As a social worker in private practice, Donna challenges communities through training and improved case management to develop and implement prevention, intervention and management strategies to successfully support individuals and families who are dealing with alcohol-related disabilities. She provides clinical support to children’s aid societies, mental health organizations and other across Canada. Donna is working with Alberta Human Services on an innovative program targeting practice standards and expertise in Child Welfare to improve outcomes for individuals suspected as having FASD.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. You’ve heard what FASD is from both individual and caregiver perspectives. Now we’d like to share what FASD is from a research perspective.
The definition of FASD
Historically, FASD was hard to define because researchers and clinicians were learning new information about this disorder every day. In 2019, researchers published a common definition of FASD to use in the Canadian context.
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.
This definition helps us understand what FASD is. But it can be a little complicated to understand all at once. So, let’s break this down.
FASD is a diagnosis
FASD is a diagnostic term. It is both an etiologic diagnosis, meaning it identifies the cause, and a functional diagnosis, meaning it identifies the consequences. In this case, FASD refers to the wide range of impacts that can happen to people who were exposed to alcohol during fetal development. Diagnoses like fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) fall under the realm of FASD.
In 2015, the Canadian guideline for diagnosing FASD was updated. People going through the assessment and diagnostic process now fall into one of four categories: (1) FASD with sentinel facial features; (2)FASD without sentinel facial features; (3) at risk for neurodevelopmental disorder and FASD associated with prenatal alcohol exposure; and (4) no diagnosis.
FASD is a disability
“Disability” itself is very challenging to define because it is such a complex and broad topic. A disability can be permanent, temporary, or happen periodically. People can be born with a disability or they can happen at some point in a person’s life. Some disabilities can improve, while others can worsen or remain the same. Disabilities can range from very mild to very severe. They can cause disease, illness, injury, or substance use challenges, but can also be the result of those factors.
According to the Government of Canada, from a biomedical approach, “a disability is a medical or health problem that prevents or reduces someone’s ability to participate fully in society.” From a social standpoint, a disability is “natural part of society, where attitudes, stigma and prejudices present barriers to people with disabilities, and prevent or hinder their participation in mainstream society.”
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
FASD is a lifelong disability. People with FASD experience impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. There is no cure for FASD, but early and effective interventions and treatments can help people with FASD succeed.
FASD is a spectrum disorder
Each person with FASD is unique and will have different strengths and challenges. There are a broad range of impacts that can occur because of prenatal exposure to alcohol. These impacts occur on a spectrum, so the severity and type of impacts are different for each individual.
Commonly, people with FASD experience challenges with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills. People with FASD are also known to be friendly, likeable, helpful, generous, outgoing, hardworking, non-judgemental, and creative.
FASD is Canada’s leading developmental disability
In Canada, it is estimated that 4% of people have FASD. That’s more than the number of people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome combined, making FASD the leading developmental disability in North America. What’s more, the prevalence rates are much higher in certain populations, such as children in care and individuals involved in the justice system.
A public definition of FASD
Hopefully this breakdown helps to give you a better understanding of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). To simplify things, researchers, caregivers, and FASD experts worked together to create a shorter, more accessible definition of FASD. This is a great definition to use when you want to explain what FASD is to your friends or family members.
FASD lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. Each person with FASD has both strengths and challenges and will need special supports to help them succeed with many different parts of their daily lives.
Register now for our webinar, Refreshing our Conversations About Alcohol as a Key Component for FASD Prevention. This 60-minute webinar with Dr. Nancy Poole and Lindsay Wolfson will be held on September 25, 2020, at 11:30 am ET.
Reaching women in childbearing years and their support networks through respectful conversations about alcohol is key to FASD prevention. In Canada, we need to continue to grow our responses to substance use as binge drinking by women, the use of prescription pain medication, and emerging forms of cannabis and/or tobacco routes of administration. New research about the health effects of these substances for women, and ongoing advice from people with lived/living experience, prompt health and social care providers to continuously update their approaches to discussing alcohol and other substance use.
This webinar will build upon work by the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and the Canada FASD Research Network on trauma- and gender-informed brief intervention/support and will look closely at how we are integrating wise practice related to: stigma reduction, cultural safety, equity-informed approaches and combined responses on alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and opioids.
Identify existing and promising practices for discussing and providing information on alcohol, and screening for alcohol problems and making referrals to treatment (where necessary), in collaboration with women in the preconception and perinatal periods;
Recognize opportunities to apply gender-, equity- and trauma-informed approaches to discussing and providing support related to alcohol and other substance use; and,
Bring attention to the importance of continuing to discuss alcohol and help women prevent FASD, even as our attention is drawn to emerging cannabis, opioids and tobacco strategies.
Nancy Poole, PhD, is the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health a virtual NGO research centre hosted by BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. She is also the Prevention Lead for the CanFASD Research Network, guiding a national network of researchers, service providers, policy analysts and community-based advocates working on FASD prevention. Nancy is currently collaborating on research and knowledge translation projects in Canada and internationally, that are related to alcohol, other substance use, trauma-informed approaches and Indigenous wellness.
Lindsay Wolfson, MPH, is a Researcher at the Canada FASD Research Network and Manager at the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health. She holds a Master of Public Health, Social Inequities and Health, from Simon Fraser University. Lindsay is responsible for research and collaboration on projects relating to Indigenous health and wellness, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder prevention, and the integration of gender, trauma, culture, and equity-informed approaches into policy, research, and practice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on public health in Canada, including substance use and access to healthcare services and supports.
CCSA’s new webinar series explores the implications of COVID-19 on public health, highlighting work in the area of substance use and COVID-19 across sectors and across the country. You can expect to hear a variety of perspectives from leading experts spanning topics from harm reduction, stigma, domestic violence, adverse childhood events, and youth. Past webinars include:
Guiding Youth Through COVID-19: A Webinar for Youth Allies
This webinar, delivered in partnership with Alberta Health Services, explored the experiences of youth during COVID-19. Topics covered included the implications for substance use and mental health, mental health literacy, guidance for providing youth with mental health support and harm reduction messaging during the pandemic and beyond. This webinar was 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.
Anna Goodman, Research and Policy Analyst, CCSA Andrew Baxter, Project Lead for the Alberta Mental Health Literacy Project, Alberta Health Serviceshttps://www.youtube.com/embed/oIp9e_icr3Q?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent
How much are people drinking while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are Canadians drinking more alcohol than usual and, if so, are they doing it more often? This webinar explored alcohol use during the pandemic, drawing on the results of a survey and polls commissioned by CCSA in spring 2020. The presentation highlighted resources to assist in reducing risks related to alcohol use during COVID-19.
Dr. Catherine Paradis, Senior Research and Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Dr. Bryce Barker, Knowledge Broker, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine and Withdrawal Options
Addiction… haunted by stigma, harms and trauma. This webinar explored underlying issues with substance use disorders and helped attendees to understand their complexity and treatment from an evidence-based lens. It also focused on the impacts of COVID-19, withdrawal considerations and advancements in delivery of care during these uncertain times, including the Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine model.
Speaker: Dr. Ginette Poulin, Medical Director, Addictions Foundation of Manitobahttps://www.youtube.com/embed/xfKnyTdHqQM?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent
The Effects of COVID-19 on the Illegal Drug Supply
This webinar explored how regulations put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are inadvertently contributing to an increasingly toxic illegal drug supply and how this shift has both increased health harms and created policy opportunities. Presentations highlighted different perspectives, including systems-level epidemiology data, findings from a local drug checking program and experiences shared by people who use drugs.
Dr. Jane Buxton, Physician Epidemiologist and Harm Reduction Lead, BC Centre for Disease Control
Karen McDonald, Operations Manager, Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation
Matthew Bonn, Safe Supply and Drug Policy Consultant, Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs
For more information on the webinar series, please click here.