BY PAULA SCHUCK
My youngest daughter has FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). It’s a whole-body developmental disability sustained as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol.
For years since we adopted her, we’ve been her translators. She wasn’t technically from a different country, and she had all kinds of words she could use, but for all intents and purposes she spoke a completely different language.
Understanding FASD, for us, has been like learning a new language.
FASD is one of the most common causes of developmental disabilities in North America, and is found in all cultures and levels of society. In fact, the latest research from CANFASD indicates the prevalence of FASD in Canada is 4 per cent, making it 2.5 times more common than autism and 28 times more common than Down syndrome.
People with this diagnosis each have unique challenges and strengths — FASD comes with as many as 400 physical and psychological symptoms. But this spectrum disorder is often an invisible disability, and it is preventable if you don’t drink alcohol while pregnant.
Sometimes FASD symptoms don’t show up until parents or teachers see learning gaps or behaviour at school. It might look like an inability to focus, aggression, hyperactivity. It might be issues with working memory, planning or boundaries. It might be emotional dysregulation and executive functioning deficits. Slower processing speeds, lateness and poor time management are also all common in this group.
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