The Catholic Social Services Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder program staff were serving up free food and information last week to raise awareness about FASD and the services the organization provides.
Misty Duckett, FASD program coordinator said people were really surprised when they found out the barbecue at the Wetaskiwin Co-op was free.
“We did this for FASD Awareness Day to bring awareness to how alcohol affects babies when you’re pregnant,” she said.
Although FASD Awareness Day was first recognized in 2007, this was the first event hosted in Wetaskiwin and, judging by the response and the support from Co-op, Duckett said they plan to do another one next year.
According to CanFASD, a Canadian research network, FASD is “an umbrella term that describes the range of effects that can occur in an individual who was prenatally exposed to alcohol, and includes FAS. These effects can include lifelong physical, mental, behavioural difficulties, and learning disabilities. Depending on the amount and the timing of alcohol exposure, a minority of infants exposed will also develop a characteristic pattern of facial features, and some will have a growth deficiency. However, those effects are relatively rare and have little impact on day-to-day function.”
“FASD is 100 per cent preventable,” said Duckett. “The common myth is it’s genetic and it’s not.”
There are a number of factors that determine the effects of alcohol on pregnancy, but because they vary so radically, abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy is the best course of action.
Through Catholic Social Services, which covers the area from Wetaskiwin to Drayton Valley, Ponoka and Camrose, Duckett said the FASD program provides supports to adults living with FASD including transportation, budgeting, grocery shopping and other day to day living assistance.
For children with FASD the program offers training to school staff and strategies “so the whole team of people are involved so that child is successful in school,” said Duckett.
They also provide in-home support for families of these children.
In addition, they offer prevention awareness presentations to parents and teachers of elementary school students.
They would like to get in and talk to high school students, but Duckett said those presentation have been difficult to coordinate.
“We’d love to go into the high schools,” she said.