Embraced: The Quest to Make a Film

Embraced logo: the truth about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

When our son was twelve, he exploded with a vengeance. Without warning, amidst a crowded outdoor concession stand, he power-kicked a soccer ball directly into his sister’s head. So I loaded him into a van for a road trip to explore, “why the anger?” Every few seconds he said something chilling, then contradicted it in the next sentence. I remained silent except to state, “I’m sorry” or “are you hungry?”.

Hours passed and his fixation on whatever had happened still occupied his mind. Eventually, hunger got the best of him, and he asked if we could get something to eat. Somewhere between ordering and paying for the food, he stated, “Why are you so nice? I want to be nice. What’s wrong with me?”

FASD Diagnosis

Two years later our family finally understood the mystery behind our son’s disruptive behaviours by a surprising Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) diagnosis. Part of the mystery for my wife, Kim, and I was that we were naive to this condition and its associated traits. We had adopted Sam’s sister, Mathea, from the same birth mom as Sam. However, Mathea did not display the same challenges.

We were aware Sam was not hitting all the benchmarks for childhood development, but we associated these with common trauma traits associated with adoption. We thought these would balance out in time. His disorder was also masked by his higher IQ, athleticism and soccer skills, his charm, and the creativity that flows so naturally for him. It took a total of fourteen years, a catalog of stories like the one above, and an assortment of misdiagnoses before we finally got a correct diagnosis of FASD.

Life has a way of presenting “a fork in the road” through circumstances. For us, Sam’s condition was a choice to either lean in to learn appropriate interventions or stay the course without changing our parenting style. For us, we choose a path that became an intense year of research. This resulted in a paradigm shift to interrupt his behaviours through a brain-based lens which has made all the difference for Sam and our family.


As a filmmaker, there was another fork in the road to consider. Should I undertake a film production addressing FASD or spend my energy on less weighty topics? After a year or so of trying to juggle a few other films, I finally set the other projects aside to focus on addressing FASD. My documentary film project is called Embraced. I cannot say it has been an easy road but after several years, we’ve seen some success.

Embraced: Truth About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is a compelling documentary film exploring how the number one cause of developmental disabilities worldwide is preventable, and why few are paying attention.

Become Part of this Journey

COVID-19 has changed some of our plans. Currently, we’re collecting stories from around the world via Zoom. We are seeking stories that address various aspects of FASD, including family relationships, classroom strategies, and criminal justice involvement, as well as the neuroscience and medical perspective. If you would like to contribute to our film, we welcome your participation. I see this project as one that is by, with, and for the FASD community.

With awareness and understanding so sorely lacking for FASD globally, the vision of this film is to produce high-end and compelling  “re-enactments” (based on stories collected) using professional actors and, if possible, celebrities. Once the re-enactments are produced, the team will travel throughout North America to capture traditional interviews from families and professionals to balance the story arc. The hope is that this film will help draw the attention we all seek to our cause.

We are still in the fundraising stages to see this dream unfold. I still wake each morning and go to bed with excitement – maybe even call it a determined conviction – to take another step on this journey. It seems so many in our communities are unaware of the potential health risks that prenatal alcohol exposure can have on our children, like our family was just a few years ago. It is my hope a film like Embraced can someday soon deliver the awareness FASD deserves and make a difference for our kiddos.

Schedule a Zoom recording to tell your story! 

Retrieved from Embraced: The Quest to Make a Film – CanFASD



Austin Lee CTV News Lethbridge Video Journalist

cannabis, substance, ptsd, pandemic

The study found that 19 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men met the criteria for high pandemic-related PTSD symptoms, while 13 per cent of both men and women reported a significant increase in substance use.

LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. — Dr. Cheryl Currie is an epidemiologist and public health professor at the University of Lethbridge who has spent a large portion of her career working with individuals who have been diagnosed with PTSD.

In June 2020, she surveyed more than 900 Albertans from across the province to identify whether or not individuals were exhibiting symptoms of pandemic induced PTSD and whether they had substantially increased their use of substances such as cannabis and alcohol.

“The more PTSD symptoms [people] were having due to the pandemic; nightmares, rumination where they couldn’t get the pandemic out of their head, blaming themselves or others for the pandemic, the more they were having these symptoms, there was a very strong association with how much they were increasing their alcohol and cannabis use,” said Currie.

cheryl, currie, professor

She also noted that these findings only reflect the first wave of the pandemic.

The study found that 19 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men met the criteria for high pandemic-related PTSD symptoms, while 13 per cent of both men and women reported a significant increase in substance use.

Click here to read the full article.

Retrieved from CTV News, New study: Albertans turning to alcohol and cannabis to cope with pandemic related PTSD (preventionconversation.org)



Topic: Student spotlight: Emerging FASD research in Canada

Description: In this webinar, some of Canada’s graduate students and emerging FASD researchers will present on projects they conducted as part of their training. We have brought together three students from diverse backgrounds to provide a snapshot of the various types of research being conducted on FASD in Canada. From the stresses of COVID-19 on individuals with FASD and their families to groundbreaking brain imaging findings to hopeful interventions for motivation and self-regulation, this webinar has something for everyone from all backgrounds.

Time: Apr 30, 2021 01:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Webinar logo

Click here to register.



Identifying Best Practices for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is designed for use by professionals working in the substance use, mental health, housing, employment, justice, and other service delivery fields. These settings provide ideal opportunities to implement brief, effective approaches to improve outcomes in preventing FASD, screening for FASD, and supporting success among individuals with FASD.

The aim of Identifying Best Practices is to provide a course for a range of service providers that is multidisciplinary, works across the spectrum of FASD, and supports individuals across the lifespan. The course will provide tools and strategies to support individuals who have or are at risk of having a child with FASD and/or may have FASD themselves.

The course includes four modules designed to provide you with:

  • An overview of FASD and its various manifestations and implications
  • Information about current approaches and strategies for FASD prevention
  • Resources on how to screen for FASD
  • Strategies to support individuals with FASD to achieve healthy outcomes

In the case study, you will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained from this course in a common scenario involving a fictional character with FASD in a variety of questions.

A certificate will be provided to each participant upon completion.

Click here for more information.

Retrieved from New CanFASD Online Training: Identifying Best Practices for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (preventionconversation.org)


Family Education Society:

Please see the attached posters as a reminder of the programs the Family Education Society is currently offering. Baby and Me occurs on Fridays and there is still room! Dad’s Discover starts next week and we still have 2 more Lunch & Learns available in April.

Walk and Talk occurs every Thursday, participants must register as they need to ensure numbers are kept to AHS outdoor guidelines and masks are mandatory.

For more information contact:

Gaitane Gilje


Ph. 780-830-0920

Fx. 780-830-0921


Upcoming ASIST Training

SPRC have had some openings come available for our upcoming Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop next week.

There are 3 spots available on a first come first serve basis. Visit their website to register: https://www.sp-rc.ca/workshop-registration

SPRC have also opened up addition summer training dates. If you’re interested in learning more or taking this training visit their website at https://www.sp-rc.ca/workshops/applied-suicide-intervention-skills-training-asist



Dear colleague,

Thousands of people in Canada have already shared their views about alcohol during our public consultation on updating Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. On behalf of all of us at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken part so far. Your views matter to us!

If you have not yet had your say, there’s still time. The online consultation survey is open to all people in Canada until April 18. The survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete, depending on how much input you choose to provide.

We want to hear from as many people as possible and ensure that we receive a broad range of perspectives related to alcohol and alcohol consumption. This includes members of the public, as well as professionals from a variety of sectors, including health and social services, health research, education and industry.

The feedback we receive through this consultation will inform the update to the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. It will help us learn about the experiences of the general public and stakeholders with the current guidelines and their needs and expectations for updated guidelines, namely:

  • Whether and how people in Canada are using the current alcohol drinking guidelines;
  • What are some of the challenges in using the guidelines;
  • What is most useful in the guidelines; and
  • What your needs and expectations are for the updated guidelines.

Should you decide to take part, rest assured that your information is completely confidential and anonymous.

Want to know more about this public consultation? Visit CCSA’s website or see our Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have any questions about this project, please email Lauren Levett, (LLevett@ccsa.ca).

Retrieved from Public Consultation on Updating Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines Closes on April 18, 2021 (preventionconversation.org)



CanFASD has updated their common messages guide! A great resource to refer to when you’re talking about FASD, alcohol, and pregnancy. Check it out!

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Click here to download the guide.


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 language, statistics, and framing of topics. 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 they are informed by emerging research.
Key Communication Themes:

The following are some overarching recommendations for all messaging about FASD:

1. Respect, dignity, and inherent human worth should be promoted among individuals with FASD, women who use alcohol during pregnancy, and their families:

o FASD awareness or prevention programs and initiatives should avoid guilt-ridden, blameful, or shameful messaging
o When using imagery, refrain from using pictures of fetuses, pregnant bellies without heads, and naked pregnant people
o Fatalistic or deficits-focused terminology should be replaced with person-first, strength-based, and hope-focused language (see the definition below)
o These language guides provide additional context and information about dignity promotion for individuals with FASD

2. Always rely on information that is accurate and based on rigorous, high-quality research (i.e., evidence-based)

3. Refrain from stating that FASD is “100% preventable” as this statement greatly oversimplifies the issue and can stigmatize individuals and families

In order to promote a common language about FASD and to minimize misinterpretation of key issues, CanFASD has developed a standard definition of FASD. Standard definitions are needed to ensure consistency in administrative, clinical, and research operations. We recommend that this definition be used by governments and policymakers across Canada to promote accurate and consistent language when referring to FASD.