CBC: Advocates seek more support for people struggling with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Three of Vicky Morinville’s adopted children have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. (CBC)

Vicky Morinville’s daughter has been called lazy and difficult because she was born with a disability that’s largely misunderstood and hard to diagnose.

An estimated four per cent of Canadians have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), more than autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy combined, according to a national research network.

FASD is a prenatal brain injury that can occur when a fetus is exposed to alcohol.

It can take decades to get a diagnosis, and parents and advocates say finding support is a struggle in Nova Scotia where there’s no dedicated FASD clinic, unlike some other provinces.

“These children will end up homeless or in the criminal justice system where they don’t belong because these families can’t access and can’t advocate for other resources to help their children,” Morinville, who lives in Cole Harbour, N.S., told CBC’s Information Morning.

For Morinville’s daughter, who is adopted, the signs were noticeable early on.

At four months, she was having trouble turning her head, making eye contact and settling down, and was officially diagnosed at age two. She is now an adult living the care of the province.

Morinville said many of the resources that are available for young children with FASD fade away once they enter school.

“It’s a lot of times left up to the learning centre teacher or classroom teachers, and these teachers have enough on their plates without trying to deal with these issues as well,” said Morinville, who has two other adopted children with the same disorder.

Need for specialized professionals

As a child, Francis Perry was always getting into trouble but didn’t know why. He recalls sitting in classrooms and being distracted by the persistent hum of the lights above his head.

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