On June 9, I attended the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) conference in Moncton, N.B. It brought together health-care providers, action advocates, parents and kids — all of whom have an interest in, or are directly affected by, FASD.
Featuring a keynote presentation by University of Alberta researcher, Dr. Jacqueline Pei, the event was packed to overflowing, garnering more interest than it had capacity. Originally intended to serve an audience of 200, the organizers had so many people apply they had to turn some away.
And in that large and engaged crowd, representation from Nova Scotia was conspicuously absent.
Indeed, I could identify only a handful of attendees from outside of New Brunswick, the only province in Atlantic Canada that can claim to be addressing FASD in any meaningful way.
As speaker after speaker stepped up to the podium, I was awestruck by this void. Why, I kept wondering, is no one else addressing this issue?
FASD occurs when children are exposed to alcohol in the womb. It has a higher prevalence than just about any other childhood neurological disorder, with conservative estimates suggesting it occurs in four per cent of all births. For some context, that is more than Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and cerebral palsy combined.
The solution seems simple enough. If a mother doesn’t drink when pregnant, they will not give birth to a child with FASD. Ignoring, for a moment, the complexity of addiction, this line of thinking has at least one major flaw. In this day and age, it could be argued that most mothers know they should not drink while carrying a child.
But what if they don’t know they are pregnant?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society, its stakeholders, and/or funders.