Support for those with FASD


About four per cent of Cold Lake residents have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, meaning they are people with cognitive disabilities because their mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. That is about 600 people.

Ten years ago, a number of these individuals would have found themselves in trouble with the law, said Aubrey McFarlane, executive director at the Lakeland Centre for FASD, since those with FASD can have poor impulse control and poor anger management skills.

“They had poor outcomes,” said McFarlane.

But she said services like those being offered at the Lakeland Centre for FASD have improved that.

“We can make diagnoses and we can help adults affected find employment and help youths plan and succeed with adulthood,” said McFarlane.

She said the women in university or college face the biggest risk when it comes to having babies with FASD.

“There is a risk from pre-conception right through the entire pregnancy,” said McFarlane, adding the only way to ensure one’s baby isn’t born with FASD is to abstain completely from alcohol if one is sexually active.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to FASD.

“A lot of people think the mothers are mostly indigenous or have addictions issues. This is not true,” said McFarlane. “All races are affected equally. We need to reduce the shame and blame towards women when it comes to this issue.”

Despite all the work of the Lakeland Centre for FASD, McFarlane said there are still a number of people out there that are not supported, which is why the centre hosted a free pancake breakfast and mocktail challenge on Sept. 8 to help raise awareness around the issue.

The Institute of Health Economics estimates that 46,000 Albertans are living with FASD, and about 500 babies in the province will be born with FASD this year.

The Alberta government committed $18.45 million this year for assessment and diagnosis, prevention and support programs for those living with FASD.

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