A brain that has difficulty making sound decisions from cradle to grave faces a litany of labels in life; from being the bad kid in school to the one standing before a criminal court judge in their adolescence and adulthood.
Not only do people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) struggle in school and society, 60 per cent of them will have contact with the criminal justice system and are 19 times more likely to be incarcerated, says Kaitlyn McLachlan, a forensic psychiatrist with McMaster University.
McLachlan delivered the sobering statistic last Friday (Sept. 9), on International FASD day, to about 50 Halton advocates working to alter that future for people with the incurable and lifelong disability.
According to haltonfasd.ca, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term used to describe the brain damage caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. This brain-based disorder is permanent and irreversible with varying symptoms. The effects can be neurological, behavioural and physical. FASD is the leading known cause of preventable disability among Canadians. Although individuals with FASD cannot be cured, they are able to still lead rewarding and successful lives.
While between one and five per cent of the nation’s population has been diagnosed with FASD, they represent a “staggering” one-quarter of those incarcerated in this country, says McLachlan.
“It’s a pretty big problem.”
Part of her job involves explaining to the courts or a review board what got the convicted person with FASD into trouble.
“But by the time people come to see me, we’ve really missed the boat,” said McLachlan.
She said there are not enough resources for women in communities at risk to prevent FASD, which was finally recognized as a disability in 1973.
Nor is there enough money spent on increasing awareness or resources and education, she added.
In Halton there’s a move to change this.
At Friday’s celebration of International FASD Day, Roxanne Young, chair of the Halton FASD intervention group, introduced the 20 members of a region-wide resource team.
These professionals from various local agencies, including police, schools, public health, mental health and addictions support, will work with individuals and families in the community dealing with FASD. They will also work on prevention and awareness.
“We offer support, hope and understanding,” added Young.
“We want a community where people touched with FASD want to move to.”
For more information visit Halton FASD’s website at haltonfasd.ca.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.