What social workers need to know about FASD

This article on Community Care states that , “Unless trained and aware of FASD it is unlikely that professionals, including social workers, will consider pre-birth exposure to alcohol as an explanation for a child’s behaviour”  The article goes further to give examples of those ramifications.  Please see below article.

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by Martin Clarke – Learning and Development Manager – TACT Fostering & Adoption

Advice on consuming alcohol during pregnancy in the UK is woefully inadequate. Current official guidance given by midwives is: “It is better not to drink, but if you do, then 1 or 2 units, once or twice a week is alright”.

In Australia and Canada it is a lot simpler: “If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think you may be pregnant it is safer not to drink alcohol.” This simple, clear and easy to remember advice would make a massive difference to a significant number of children.

Across the world, it is recognised that alcohol effects the unborn foetus and can have a dramatic impact upon it. This impact usually involves some element of neurological problems as alcohol is a “neuro-toxin”, literally a “brain poison”.

This neurological damage can be accompanied by physical manifestations also, but not necessarily.

The conditions

All the conditions caused by alcohol consumption by the mother during the pregnancy are jointly referred to as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and the one condition that many people are aware of is FAS (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome), where the alcohol causes facial dysmorphology, a smooth philtrum and a thin upper lip being the obvious features.

However, the vast majority of foetally affected children will not have FAS and there will be nothing visible to show they have been affected. This condition is Alcohol Related Neurological Disorder (ARND).

Children with ARND & FASD might have intellectual disabilities and problems with behaviour and learning. They might do poorly in school and have difficulties with maths, memory, attention, judgment, and exhibit poor impulse control.

Social workers, along with parents/carers, will start to notice the impact in terms of behaviours and emotions in a whole range of ways and will seek explanations for it, and at that point pre-birth exposure to alcohol neds to be considered before, or as well as, looking at ADHD or attachment issues.

Estimates across the globe suggest that 1/100 children, worldwide, are on the spectrum, with about 1/1000 having FAS.

However, given the particularly close relationship we in the UK have with alcohol – it is central to most of our rituals (weddings, christenings, funerals, leaving dos, stag nights, hen nights) and our everyday life – this figure is generally thought to be an under-estimate and most experts would agree that a figure closer to 3% or even 5% is much more likely to be accurate.

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