Coaching Families Support Group – October 20, 2015

Are you a caregiver of a child living with FASD? Would you like to meet other caregivers and share successes, generate ideas, and problem solve?  Then come to the Coaching Families Support Group scheduled for October 20th, 2015.

You can bring your little one along as there will be a limited child programming and a light supper. Please RSVP to Roxanna Clermont at 780-378-2543 or via email

Coaching Families Support Group

Doctors Say Babies Should be Tested for FASD

Irish Examiner reports that Doctors say all babies should be tested for FASD.  Dr. Foran, a consultant neonatologist, said the Health Research Board had been asked to support a project so newborn babies could be tested anonymously. According to this report by the examiner, testing of babies has been suggested due to lack of data on the number of babies exposed to alcohol during pregnant in Ireland.

All babies should undergo a test to find out if their mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, a neonatal expert told the Joint Committee on Health and Children.

Adrienne Foran described foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as the “elephant in the room”, because Irish people were uncomfortable tackling alcohol abuse.

FAS refers to a number of birth defects caused by a mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy.  The level of alcohol that causes FAS is unknown, although binge drinking is particularly harmful.

Dr Foran, a consultant neonatologist, said there was no data on the number of babies exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.  However, a baby’s first bowel movement can reveal if their mother drank alcohol during pregnancy and if the child will suffer intelligence problems in later life.

Dr Foran said the Health Research Board had been asked to support a project so newborn babies could be tested anonymously.  The consultant, who is based at the Rotunda Maternity Hospital and Temple Street University Children’s Hospital, in Dublin, said it was likely that more babies were at risk of FAS.

“We might see one or two cases a year, where it is quite clearly full-blown FAS, but the mother would be an identified alcoholic,” she said.

Children affected by their mother’s drinking may not be identified until they are aged two or three, or at school age, when behavioural and learning difficulties become problematic.

“If we don’t know how widespread the problem is, we don’t know how to deal with it,” said Dr Foran.
It has become more socially acceptable for women to drink alcohol and Dr Foran said more younger women were drinking more.

“It was socially unacceptable for my grandmother to sit in a pub 40 years ago, but it is the norm now for women as young as 13 or 14 to drink heavily,” she said.

Dr Foran also told the committee that most of the drug-addicted mothers seen at the Rotunda over the last five to 10 years were poly-drug users.

One of the biggest challenges for doctors was when a mother was taking tranquilisers such as benzodiazepines.

“The half-life of those drugs is much longer and the baby may not show show drug-withdrawal symptoms for two to three weeks,” said Dr Foran.

The consultant said 106 opiate-dependent pregnant women attended the Rotunda last year and 68 of their babies were delivered.

She said close to half of the babies would be admitted to hospital, but not always for neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Some of the babies would have been born prematurely, while some would have blood/sugar problems.

However, about a third, and sometimes more, would have full-blown neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“Ideally, these babies, once identified, should be nursed in a dark, quiet room, with dimmed light and swaddling,” said Dr Foran. “But that is not possible in the Rotunda in 2015. We don’t have the space.”


Professionals without Parachutes FASD

Supporting Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) This resource includes videos and accompanying learning guides designed for use by professional learning communities, learning coaches and teacher leaders or as a self-paced study.


Understanding medical and disability implications of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is essential for getting to know students with FASD, planning effective instruction and providing the right level of classroom support.

Developed by Dr. Jacqueline Pei and her colleagues, Stephanie Hayes and Alethea Heudes. this PD resource provides an explanation of FASD, its effect on the brain and the impact it can have on student learning, social/emotional behaviour and the classroom environment. Strategies for designing classroom instruction and routines to support students with FASD are also highlighted.

Each of the videos and accompanying learning guides are organized as modules and focus on the following:

  • Module One: Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the Developing Brain
  • Module Two: Brain Structure Versus Brain Function
  • Module Three: The Brain and Emotional Regulation

Here is the link to the resources:

Service Dog for Persons with FASD – Furry companion helps woman cope with FASD

What is your take on this report by Hamilton The Spectator?  Service Dogs trained to act as external brain specifically for persons living with FASD.

PIETRANTONIOA malamute puppy named Sasha could be Hamilton’s first certified FASD service dog.

The dog, which is being privately trained, would be a source of calm for Savanna Pietrantonio. She will be trained to “read” the 47-year-old Ancaster woman — who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder — and anticipate meltdowns.

“She’ll have to watch me, for anxiety, for signs of a meltdown coming … she’ll be my external brain,” says Pietrantonio.

Her meltdowns are similar to seizures, she explains, and there are many things that can spur one — like a particularly busy day or prolonged social setting.

“I can’t regulate my emotions … I get stuck in thought,” she says in an interview at her home.

In a blog post, she describes it as having the logical and emotional messages from her brain getting tangled up like a pile of Christmas lights.

Friend Mark Courtepatte — who lives with Pietrantonio and her 22-year-old son — says he has done research and believes this will be the first FASD dog in the area.

Once known exclusively for assisting the blind, service dogs are now being used for a spectrum of special needs — including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, autism and, now, FASD.

Ian Ashworth, director of program development and head trainer for autism assistance dogs at the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program, says this is the first FASD-specific dog he has heard of — but it’s difficult to know because the industry is largely self-regulated and there’s no database of service dogs.

An FASD dog will use its weight to lean against its owner during a meltdown, explains dog trainer and breeder Chris Reimer, who will be working with the Citadel Canine Society — which trains and provides service dogs (usually rescues) to war vets, especially those with PTSD — to train and evaluate Sasha as a service dog.

It’ll likely be a year and a half before she is assessed and officially certified, Reimer says.

But Ashworth says it’s a grey area, and that there’s no consistent form of certification in Canada.

Pietrantonio was not diagnosed with FASD until her 40s.

When she was a child, she and her adopted parents knew something was “off.”

She was misdiagnosed by doctors and not supported at school. She overmedicated, abused alcohol and self-harmed, even attempting suicide.

“I went through my whole life being misunderstood and blamed for what was really brain damage,” she says.

PIETRANTONIOThe diagnosis was a relief. Since then, she has developed techniques to handle her stress and anxiety, and focuses her time helping others — particularly families and children living with FASD.

“I can give them the viewpoint from my brain,” she says.

One of those families is the Page family, which donated the dog to Pietrantonio.

Dan and his wife Christine have an adopted son with FASD and met Pietrantonio through a local support group.

As the lead volunteer for the Hamilton branch of the Citadel Canine Society, Dan Page has seen firsthand the value of dogs in helping people to cope with issues like anxiety.

“Even with her having her own issues … it’s amazing how she can just reach out and be supportive with other people,” Page says.

Pietrantonio volunteers as a “life strategy coach” with FASD support group Flying with Broken Wings, and she and Courtepatte also work with the FASD Youth and Siblings Support Group — the only one they know of in Ontario.

She also speaks regularly at conferences and fairs about living with FASD — even though the stress of such appearances often lead to a meltdown.

Page said he’s excited for the training to get underway and see her work with the dog and hopes they will boost awareness around the value of service dogs for FASD.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing these two make a perfect pair.”


Feeling like a Monster? “Belly Breath”

This is a fun video for pre-schoolers to help them calm down. Colbie Caillat and Common recommend a calming breath. Source:

Online module links for AHS and non-AHS service providers

The first module from the Trauma Informed Care Education and Training Project is now available externally! The module: What is Trauma Informed Care? Is now accessible to non-AHS service providers (see below). Please help us spread the word by sending this announcement to your contacts.

This is the introductory learning module in the Trauma Informed Care online learning series. The content is intended for all service providers, regardless of their role. In this module, learners will be introduced to key concepts and practices of Trauma Informed Care. The purpose of this learning opportunity is to increase knowledge about psychological trauma and improve practice to be more trauma informed and patient/client centered.

click link below

Training for Non AHS Service Providers

Please note that this module can be completed by anyone.

A certificate of completion can be printed at the end of the module once all four learning checks have been completed.

Please ensure that you are running the module in Internet Explorer as the certificate may not print correctly in different browsers

Arlene – Birth mother of a person with FASD – 12th Video Series

Here is the storey of Arlene – Birth mother of a person with FASD

Thanks NOFAS for developing and sharing this video

The statements made in this video do not necessarily represent the views or positions of EFAN

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