International Self Care Day

International Self-care Day: An ‘Accommodated’ Self Care List for the Exhausted Parent
July 24, 2019 By canfasdblog

Hi there fellow caregivers, my name is Jennifer. I have a daughter with FASD and I’ve fostered other children who also live with FASD in the past. My partner and I are the advocates, bouncers, parents and playmates of our kiddo as we navigate life, systems and society that are not FASD-informed. It’s a recipe for exhaustion. Sort of like that time when you pulled an all nighter to study for an exam in high school, only you don’t get to have the catch-up nap for at least a decade.
Though there is significant room for improvement within all systems, self care (more than just a trendy buzzword) is a way we can help ourselves now. Self care is essential, yes. It is important that caregivers of children with FASD prioritize their personal health and well-being. Self care also ensures we are able to continue providing care for those who depend on us the most, but it means we can do so with spunk and sparkle (just add coffee and dark humour). This list of ‘accommodated self care’ suggestions veers from bubble baths and dates with your BFF, but please know that those things are still important! It’s hard to prioritize self care when your world is moving so quickly because of the needs of your child or children, especially on a budget and balancing other life demands. This list is not meant to be an added stress to your already very full plate of parenting a child with a complex, often misunderstood, invisible disability. Take what you can and leave the rest! Know that you are not alone; you are loved, and you will survive the day (and night)!
1. Sleep. If sleep is elusive in your home, set aside other people’s opinions of how your nights ‘should’ look and get some sleep whenever and wherever you can. If that includes co-bedding for periods of time, then do that. If you can’t stand the thought of co-bedding, don’t feel pressure to do that. Restorative sleep underlies so much of our ability to respond rather than react to stress and the needs of our kiddos, that we can’t forget how vital it is to our own health. Because our kids tend to struggle with sleep themselves, it also impacts their ability to self regulate and can exacerbate their difficulties. Here’s a great link to support you with sleep for your kiddo with FASD and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.
2. Breathe. Unclench your jaw. Separate your tongue from the roof of your mouth. Notice the sensations you can feel in your body. Notice your feet planted firmly on the ground. What comes to you when you take a moment to pause just for you? Of course, ensure the safety of children in your care before totally unwinding. The cool thing about grounding like this is that we can do it whenever and wherever we might be, even if it’s right beside our kiddo who’s struggling. We can even support their self-regulation skills by teaching them these tips too! To learn more about self regulation, visit The Mehrit Centre.
3. Try not to judge yourself. You do what you have to do in order to survive the intensity and continuously high needs that most people can’t relate to. Don’t swallow other people’s opinions or unsolicited neuro-typical parenting advice. People that aren’t parenting children with FASD do not ‘get it’, and may never ‘get it’. That’s okay. Families that do parent from a brain-based approach and understand neurodiversity are rooting for you all the way! I see you! You’re doing a great job! Keep going!!
4. Find others like you. They’re out there! I promise! Seek membership to a peer-support program if it exists in your community, or try to connect with parents living a similar narrative as yours. There are also online forums that can help to create connection for caregivers who do get it!
5. Practice saying ‘no’. Say ‘no’ to social events that you don’t want to go to or requests of you that you don’t actually want to do. It’s okay to say no, to do less and to lay low when you need to! Revisit post #3!
6. Tag team. Spell off with your partner if you have one and give each other breaks. If you are doing this solo, find out what respite options are available to you in your community and befriend people who are able to roll up their sleeves and stand in this with you and your family. Revisit post #4. You are a rock star!
7. Do not take it personally when well-intentioned friends and family tell you they ‘just don’t see it’ or ‘he/she/they is so good when they’re with me’. Let them think that. If they are good with your kiddo and understand the safety needs for them, consider it free respite!
8. Tell your friends and family you need breaks. Having a family member or close family friend that understands your child (and whom your child responds well to) helps everyone have positive interactions and the breaks we all need to manage day-to-day.
9. Learn as much as you can about FASD (if you haven’t done so already). Remember that your child is unique and has many strengths. By identifying his/her/their needs however, you can help to create accommodations and experiment with approaches that can better support their well-being, self regulation, and functioning, which helps you too! Check out CanFASD’s Foundations in FASD Certificate.
10. If you are employed, speak to your employer about the Employment Equity Act and discuss workplace accommodations, flex schedules and remote work options. Employers are becoming far more hip to the life and times of work-life balance and the high needs of many families. Workplace accommodations for caregivers is a protected human right; employers are expected to provide reasonable measures to ensure equitable employment opportunities based on family status. Find out what your options are – wherever you live – to create more harmony for yourself and your family. In Ontario; Canada-wide Duty to Accommodate.
11. Find out about Employee Assistance Programs. Continuing on the theme of employment, it’s also a good idea to find out about employee assistance programs that might be offered through your workplace — you’d be surprised to find out what is available to you or your child(ren) at no cost!
12. Create new traditions that are less overstimulating, but still honour special events and celebratory times of the year. Revisit post #3 when you feel like you’re not doing enough or you feel guilty for making accommodations that best suit your family’s well-being.
13. Share information about FASD with family and friends who need to better understand your child. Let family and close friends know they need to understand FASD from a disability lens, and support your child from a place of compassion, understanding and flexibility. If this conversation isn’t possible without collateral damage, try to limit time together and pull back to preserve your own well-being. Revisit posts #3 and #4.
14. Bring a supportive person to care planning meetings, doctor’s appointments and IEP meetings, especially if the professionals you’re meeting with are not well versed in FASD. This provides you with a bit of a buffer, a second set of eyes and ears, as well as an additional voice regarding your child’s needs and strengths. Let them know about CanFASD’s Foundations in FASD course and the FASD for School Staff training.
When you have time, connect to self care tips and strategies shared here. Remember to breathe and that your best is more than enough. Chugging coffee and taking fake bathroom breaks are quick fixes, but we all need real breaks to restore. In solidarity, you’ve got this!
Written by Jennifer Noah

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Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
Dr. Stephanie Liu with her first child. Credit: Stephanie Liu

Is it safe to drink alcohol and breastfeed? As physicians, we have always cautioned patients not to. As mothers, we look forward to the occasional glass of wine.

We also know that drinking while breastfeeding remains a controversial and very , one for which many mothers find themselves judged by friends and family.

Does beer increase milk supply?

Historically, beer was made very differently than it is today. Beer companies marketed low-alcohol beers to women to stimulate appetite, increase their strength and enhance milk production. Barley used in beer production contains a polysaccharide that can enhance breast milk production by increasing prolactin secretion in nursing mothers.

On the other hand,  may also inhibit breast milk letdownand slow the flow of  to the baby due to a blunted prolactin response required for breast milk production. An older study published in Developmental Psychobiology also found that infants consumed less milk during the four-hour testing sessions in which nursing mothers drank alcoholic beer compared to mothers who drank nonalcoholic beer.

Alcohol consumption may cause a woman’s breasts to feel fuller, giving the illusion of enhanced milk production when in fact there is less milk transferring to the baby.

How much alcohol will reach your baby?

The amount of alcohol present in your breast milk is closely related to the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream. The highest amount of alcohol level in your breast milk occurs 30 to 60 minutes after an alcoholic drink.

Many studies have been performed that measure the amount of alcohol that gets into breast milk and thus into baby. One study found that consuming 250 ml of wine had a very small impact on the baby’s blood alcohol level.

The legal driving limit for blood alcohol concentration in many cities is 0.05 percent. This correlates to 50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood. Because the amount of alcohol present in your breast milk is closely related to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, the amount transferred to your baby depends upon your blood alcohol level at the time of nursing.

For example: If your baby drinks 100 ml of breast milk while you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent, your baby will consume 50 mg of alcohol. For a 5 kg baby, this is 0.001 percent of their body weight in alcohol.

Put another way: a standard drink (defined as one 355 ml can of beer, one 150 ml glass of wine or 45 ml of hard liquor) contains approximately 14,000 mg of alcohol. If your baby drinks 100 ml of breast milk while you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent, this is nearly equivalent to your baby drinking 1.5 ml of beer, or 0.5 ml of wine or 0.2 ml of hard liquor.

Wait at least two hours before nursing

Ultimately, just as in pregnancy, there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. We cannot know for certain the safety of even small amounts of alcohol for young .

Click here for full article.

Healthy Parents Healthy Children: Cannabis is legal, but what does that mean for mothers when breastfeeding?


There is no known safe amount of cannabis (marijuana, hashish, hash oil) to use while breastfeeding. If a mom uses cannabis, it could affect her mood, judgment and how she supervises and cares for her baby. It could also affect her ability to breastfeed and respond to her baby’s feeding cues.

THC from cannabis is passed into breastmilk and is stored there. If this breastmilk is given to the baby, the THC is passed to them. The THC is then taken into their brain and fat cells and can stay in the baby’s body for weeks. There is limited research on the effects of cannabis on a breastfed baby. Some research shows that THC can affect a baby’s brain development and cause them to have slower movements and reactions. More research is needed on the possible effects of cannabis use and breastfeeding. Until more is known about it, using cannabis while breastfeeding is not advised.

Cannabis smoke also has many of the same harmful chemicals as tobacco smoke. Second-hand cannabis smoke can cause babies and young children to be sick and it can affect their level of alertness, understanding and judgment. If someone around you uses cannabis, it’s important for them not to smoke or vape cannabis in your home, in your vehicle, or in any closed spaces around your baby and other children.

For information about cutting down, quitting or finding a safer alternative if you use cannabis for medical reasons, talk with your health care provider. To learn more, you can also call the Alberta Health Services Addiction Helpline 24/7, toll-free at 1-866-332-2322, or visit Alberta Health Services – Addiction & Mental Health.

For the full article visit:

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Policy Action Paper: Toward a Standard Definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Canada

Language is a powerful tool which has been used to celebrate people, but also alienate populations of people. Individuals with disabilities have been faced with discrimination and stereotypes that separate them from the rest of society, including individuals with FASD. Using language that highlights the strengths and abilities of the individual, as opposed to only focusing on the challenges they face, allows society to change its perspective on FASD, and remove perceived limitations placed on individuals with FASD.

CanFASD has created a common definition of FASD to be used by Canadian governments, service agencies, and researchers. The standard definition aims to alleviate stigma and improve understanding of FASD, create consistent messaging, and change the societal perspective of FASD toward a strengths-based, whole-body approach.

CanFASD recommends the following definition when writing FASD policy or addressing services to individuals with FASD:

“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.”

Read the full paper here to learn more about the importance of language and how we crafted our definition.

Authors: Kelly Harding, Katherine Flannigan, Audrey McFarlane


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Make Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder a Priority for the 2020 Federal Budget

On June 13th, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance posted a news release inviting Canadians to share their input regarding the next federal budget. CanFASD urges you to make a submission in support of the CanFASD Research Network and the work that we do.  FASD is a major public health issue that affects over 1.4 million Canadians – more than autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome combined.  Canada needs to do better on all fronts – awareness, prevention, diagnosis and interventions and supports.  Take this opportunity to let the Government know that FASD must be a priority for the 2020 Federal Budget.

You can find the link for submissions here. The deadline for submissions is Friday August 2nd at 11:59pm EST.


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CANFASD FREE TRAINING: FASD for school staff Level II, Practical Strategies for the School Environment

CanFASD_logo-1044x333FASD for School Staff Level II is an advanced training course intended for all educators working with students with FASD including all administrators, teachers, educational assistants, ECE’s, office admin, Board personnel and bus drivers. This Level 2 training course, building on the Level 1 Foundations in FASD course, provides the perspective of individuals who have FASD and their caregivers, is evidence-based and current, employs a culturally sensitive approach, and is presented in a way that is responsive to educators.

Level 2 training will provide knowledge and understanding of:

  • a review of the key points of the Foundations Level I course
  • characteristics of a FASD-Friendly school
  • teaching strategies for students with FASD
  • the importance of educator/caregiver collaboration
  • instructional, environmental, and assessment strategies in the classroom
  • transitions facing students with FASD

After successfully passing a twenty-question test, a certificate will be provided to each participant upon completion.



FASD for School Staff Level II is an advanced training course intended for all educators working with students with FASD including all administrators, teachers, educational assistants, ECE’s, office admin, Board personnel and bus drivers. This Level 2 training course, building on the Level 1 Foundations in FASD course, provides the perspective of individuals who have FASD and their caregivers, is evidence-based and current, employs a culturally sensitive approach, and is presented in a way that is responsive to educators

If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, we will offer to review your decision with you and offer up to a full refund depending on the situation. To process this request, please email proof of your purchase and a description of the reason you require a refund within 30 days of receiving your order.

Mental Health and FASD- Still Fighting for a Future: Exploring 15 years of Progress on FASD in Canada

Basic RGB

Fighting for a Future-2004 and Are we still fighting for a future-2019
The first ‘Fighting for a Future’ Symposium held in 2004 identified six areas that needed action for change and needed further research and support for individuals with FASD. They were: 1) Homelessness, 2) Finances,  3) Physical and Mental Health, 4) Education, Programming and Employment, 5) Legal Actions and Addictions and 6) Family Support.1 During the 8th International Conference on FASD held in Vancouver early this year, CanFASD presented the progress of these six areas over the last 15 years, asking the question ‘Are we still fighting for a future?’.2 Shana Mohr, a training coordinator with the FASD Network of Saskatchewan who is also a parent and a member of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee, presented an overview of the progress made in terms of Mental Health for individuals with FASD. In this blog post, we summarize the contents of the Mental Health section of the Are we still fighting for a future? presentation.

Recommendations made in 2004
The following recommendations were made regarding the mental health needs of individuals with FASD in the 2004 Fighting for the Future symposium.1

  • The development and funding of targeted health care delivery and mental health treatment should be considered as a primary risk management tool for working with adolescents and adults with FASD.
  • The provision of long-term mental health care for parents and other family members should be available, funded and encouraged as a risk reducing tool in maintaining essential supports for individuals with FASD.

Research Developments – 15 years
They identified that it is vital to develop a comprehensive system of mental health care to meet the needs of individuals with FASD as well as their parents, families and caregivers.1 In response to these needs, over the last 15 years, significant progress has been made. Key research developments related to mental health for FASD include:

  • Cook, 2016: Development of new FASD diagnostic criteria identifying FASD as a full body disorder and thereby including mental health assessment as a significant part of the diagnostic process.3
  • Popova, 2016: A systematic review that identified mental health conditions as comorbid with FASD. 4
  • Anderson 2017: A study that discusses how mental health needs of individuals with FASD can be met according to the Mental Health Strategy for Canada.5
  • Mela 2018: A systematic review of clinical evidence regarding the use of psychopharmacological interventions such as the use of psychotropic drugs to treat individuals with FASD6
  • Mela 2018: The first psychotropic medication algorithm for FASD by Dr. Mela’s research group7

Additionally, the work done by CanFASD to support individuals with FASD and their families was also highlighted as a significant development of mental health in the FASD sector.

Gaps and Needs
Regardless of the tremendous progress made in meeting the mental health needs of individuals with FASD, the ‘Still Fighting for the Future’ research group identified that there are still many gaps that need to be filled.2 These include:

  • More funding and supports are required for mental health services that are specifically designed for individuals with FASD
  • Mental health systems in Canada need to recognize FASD as a condition with significant mental health needs and make accommodations
  • Sufficient training should be provided for health care/mental health care professionals regarding FASD
  • There is a great deal of stigma associated with FASD that needs to be addressed

Considering the progress, gaps and needs, the two recommendations made at the 2004 Fighting for a Future Symposium regarding mental health for FASD still appear to be valid. In other words, we are still fighting for a future and together all of us can make a difference.


1          Lutke, J. & Antrobus, T. Fighting for a Future: FASD and ‘the system’: adolescents, adults and their families and the state of affairs. (FASD Support and Resources in Alberta, Surrey, BC, 2004).

2          Harding, K., Reid, D., Mohr, S., Lutke, J., Wilson, M. & Liyanage-Zachariah, V. Still Fighting for a Future: Where We Were and Where We Are Now. Exploring 15 Years of Progress on FASD in Canada. 8th International Conference on FASD doi: (2019).

3          Cook, J. L., Green, C. R., Lilley, C. M., Anderson, S. M., Baldwin, M. E., Chudley, A. E., Conry, J. L., LeBlanc, N., Loock, C. A. & Lutke, J. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: a guideline for diagnosis across the lifespan. Cmaj 188, 191-197 (2016).

4          Popova, S., Lange, S., Shield, K., Mihic, A., Chudley, A. E., Mukherjee, R. A. S., Bekmuradov, D. & Rehm, J. Comorbidity of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet 387, 978-987, doi: (2016).

5          Anderson, T., Mela, M. & Stewart, M. The Implementation of the 2012 Mental Health Strategy for Canada Through the Lens of FASD. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health 36, 69-81 (2018).

6          Mela, M., Okpalauwaekwe, U., Anderson, T., Eng, J., Nomani, S., Ahmed, A. & Barr, A. M. The utility of psychotropic drugs on patients with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): a systematic review. Psychiatry Clinical Psychopharmacology 28, 436-445 (2018).

7          Mela, M., Hanlon-Dearman, A., Densmore, R. & Reid, D. Psychotropic Medication Algorithm for FASD. (2018).


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Bring The Rain- Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement fundraising event

This 2-day event is aimed to raise funds to alleviate the devastating loss of 15 homes in Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement due to wildfires out of control in northern Alberta.

Losing a home to a fire is hard for many to understand, especially if you never felt this loss personally.

But we all know our home is valuable! a home is where you create your memories, hang your favorite photo’s, measure your child growth, keep the old family heirlooms, keep your most prized possessions… it’s your sanctuary – your safe zone.

A house is made of materials….. but HOME IS HOME

“Bring the Rain – Fire Relief” is for those who have LOST EVERYTHING to the wildfires.

For the moms, the dads, the grandparents, & the children who never see their home again and will have to rebuild – once they are allowed back into their small community.

Compassion is an action! and this event is for people to come together and show their support.

Let’s help to rebuild those 15 homes that were tragically lost.

Shower them with kindness.

Bring the Rain

Bring the love.


Event page