Author Archives: edmontonfetalalcoholnetwork

Hidden Heartache: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s Impact on Adoptive Families

When Barb Clark and her husband Michael adopted their oldest daughter Akila at 5 months old they never envisioned the difficult road ahead. What the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Clarks couldn’t see when they rocked, fed and loved their infant daughter was the brain damage that she already had because of prenatal exposure to alcohol.

“As soon as she was walking and talking I knew things were a little off,” Barb said. “Consequences never worked for her, and she was 2 years old when she stole for the first time.

An article by Kim Phagan-Hansel of The Chronicle of Social Change

Retrieved from:

Michael and Barb Clark with their four children they’ve adopted. Their daughter Akila lives with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

While “stealing” is a typical behavior for toddlers who don’t yet understand the concept, Akila’s early tendency to take things and to not learn from any consequences was concerning to the new parents. Other behaviors such as her high energy, attention-seeking and sleeplessness caused the couple to seek out guidance from medical professionals, but their concerns were often dismissed.

Finally, Barb began researching some of the behaviors online and found sites about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). With research in hand, the Clarks sought out a new pediatrician who was more willing to listen to their concerns about their daughter. Finally, at age 6, Akila was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Akila is one of the thousands of children in this country living with FASD, which is the umbrella term for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD). While it’s unknown how many people in America have one of the disorders, the CDC estimates that up to 1.5 infants are born with FAS for every 1,000 live births.

Other studies of school-age children estimate 6 to 9 our of 1,000 children have FAS, which puts the occurrence at about half the frequency of autism. But a new study of 6,639 first-grade children by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have bumped estimates to 11.3 to 50 per 1,000 children. According to the CDC, the lifetime [societal] cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million.

For the Clarks, parenting Akila has continued to be a challenge. They’ve had to learn along the way how to look at their daughter’s behavioral issues differently, recognizing that brain damage causes those behaviors. Over the years, they’ve had to adjust their parenting styles and how they respond to their daughter and her behavior. Even though Akila was 6 when she was diagnosed, it wasn’t easy to shift parenting techniques.

“It still took us several more years to wrap our brains around it,” Barb said. “We’re dealing with children with a brain injury that plays out very behaviorally.”

Now, Barb helps others understand the impacts of FASDs. As parent support coordinator for the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), Barb trains parents and professionals on a number of topics, including parenting children with FASDs. Much of that training is offered at foster care agencies and to foster parent groups.


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Another date added for FASD training with Donna Debolt

North West FASD Network

Due to high demand, another date has been added.

Grande Prairie April 12 2018

For more information and to register visit–2018-1.html

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Stress Relief Activity – Tip Sheet Thursday

Stress affects us all and while is essential for survival it can also seriously affect our body and mind.  Learning ways to effectively relieve your stress is important.  Here are a few tips to help you calm down and reduce your stress level


Click here to view tip sheet

Click here to download tip sheet

March 2018- EFAN Monthly Meeting Minutes


Please click on the links below to download minutes for supports & services and Society Meeting


March 2018 – Supports and Services Minutes

March 2018 – Society Meeting Minutes


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Welcome to the “I am a Caregiver” resource guide for those providing care to a person with FASD. This guide was developed as a way for caregivers to access important information and resources relating to providing care for children and adults with FASD. FASD is a life-long disability and individuals impacted by FASD require a community of care and support. As a caregiver, you are a key part of the care team.

Within this book you will find general information and resources to help you in your caregiving role. However, as you go through this resource it is important to remember that each individual is unique and there is no one universal strategy or solution that will work for everyone. As always, it is important to consult regularly with the individual’s professional care team if you have questions or concerns.

For more information and resources on FASD please visit

Without screening or supports, offenders with FASD face revolving door of justice

Russ Hilsher is an adult with FASD and has criminal record that goes back more than a decade.  His story just like many other with FASD, he struggles to understand the rule of the law and is in constant contact with the police.  Here is a piece by Kelly Malone  of CBC News

Retrieved from:

Russ Hilsher was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder as a baby. Now 40, he has been in and out of jail for assaults, thefts and breaching court conditions over the last 15 years. He says the routine and structure of prison worked for his FASD but it also meant he was sharing a space with people who would take advantage of his disability. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

Russ Hilsher’s criminal record goes back more than a decade, to an assault charge in 2003. The 40-year-old has been in and out of jail for breaching conditions, other assaults and theft since.

On paper, Hilsher’s background tells a different story than the one the father of two talks about when he explains how he struggles to understand rules, laws and how to interact with police.

Originally from Ghost River, near the mouth of the Cheepay River in northeastern Ontario, Hilsher’s birth mother drank during her pregnancy. He was taken from her soon after and was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder as a baby.

As a teenager he landed in a foster home in Winnipeg and struggled to adapt to city life. Hilsher often has a wide smile on his face, but his eyes take on a serious expression when he explains how he interprets the world differently. When Hilsher was younger, if he saw something on the street he would take it. He didn’t think it was theft.

If I could [serve my time] by myself in my own little space I would be alright.– Russ Hilsher

“Like you guys [who don’t have FASD] are knowing it’s not yours, but to someone who has FASD it’s just lying there, so it has to be mine. Why can’t it be mine, right?” Hilsher said.

Eventually that landed him behind bars. Hilsher said the routine and structure of prison worked for his FASD but it also meant he was sharing a space with people who were taking advantage of him. Hilsher said that he would just say “Yes” when people asked him to do things and he would end up getting in trouble, not really understanding that we he had done was not OK.

“It’s almost like if I could [serve my time] by myself in my own little space I would be alright,” he said.

In the prisons and jails it’s easy to mistake somebody’s behaviour as antisocial or oppositional when it’s really a result of having FASD, said Howard Sapers, the independent advisor on corrections reform to the Ontario provincial government and former Correctional Investigator of Canada. And in prison when people don’t follow orders or don’t seem to learn from mistakes, they face more discipline.

“This just creates a very, very negative cycle. And it just reinforces bad behaviour,” Sapers said.

The first thing to do in corrections is to recognize that FASD is a real and profound issue, Sapers said.

Click here for the rest of the news article

Educating students with FASD – 13TH FASD VIDEO SERIES (2ND ROUND)

Teaching strategies that can be applied to students with FASD The music used in this video was arranged and produced by Rick Clarke – (aka Rickvanman on by Lifelong Learning

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