Category Archives: FASD In The News

In The News: Young offender asks judge for longer sentence


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A 14-year-old who has been in and out of custody for much of his youth had a surprising request for his sentencing judge on Thursday.

The teen, who had pleaded guilty to robbery and failing to comply with court conditions, asked to be locked up for 10 months — four months longer than the sentence his lawyer had pitched to the judge.

“I wish I had more time to finish,” the Maskwacis youth told Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Glass, explaining that he was going to school while in custody.

“I know when I get out I’m not going to be very good at staying out of trouble. I was wondering if I could get 10 months,” he said from the Edmonton Young Offender Centre through a closed-circuit TV link.

Crown prosecutor Brittany Ashmore had suggested eight months of closed custody, four months of supervision and 12 months of probation.

She pointed to an “uneviable record,” including convictions for careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, assault and other charges.

Glass seemed to agree that time spent in the Young Offender Centre was as beneficial as punitive.

“It appears he does flourish somewhat in the institutional setting at this point,” he said.

Glass sentenced the youth, whose name is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to six months in closed custody and three months of supervision. He will also be on probation for 12 months.

The youth had earlier pleaded guilty to robbery and failing to comply with court-imposed conditions.

He and another youth had gone into a Red Deer liquor store in late February to shoplift some liquor.

They grabbed two bottles of Grey Goose Vodka and when confronted by a store clerk the teen appearing in court on Thursday pulled out a small paring knife. One demanded cash but they did not get any before they fled.

One youth was picked up during a traffic stop in Maskwacis. The young robber at the centre of Thursday’s court proceedings was not in the car but was arrested soon after and has been in custody since Feb. 25.

Defence lawyer Michael Scrase said in his dealings with his young client he found him friendly and polite and he comes across as a “smart young man.”

But he seems like two different people depending on whether he’s in custody or out, Scrase said.

The youth told the parole employee working on his pre-sentence report for the judge that he had difficult seeing the long-term consequences of his actions.

Fetal alcohol syndrome may be involved but it was unclear if he had ever been checked. The judge recommended that assessment be made while the teen was in custody.

While the youth may have been the victim of a bad childhood, he was not the victim of a robbery.

Three women who were in the store when it was robbed told the court how the crime had changed their lives through their victim impact statements.

One said after the robbery she had trouble sleeping and was afraid to be alone. She was given counselling arranged by her company and her doctor prescribed medication.

Another said she was afraid to work alone.

“I am scared if they are released they will come back for vengeance,” she wrote in her statement read by the Crown prosecutor.

The other also feared working alone, had trouble sleeping and worried that the robbers may return.

Given the seriousness of the crime, the judge ordered that a DNA sample be taken for a national database and that the teen be banned for life from having weapons. He also approved an order for Child and Family Services to get involved.

CBC: Yukon cited as a leader in FASD programs and services


Representatives of the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network are holding their annual general meeting in Whitehorse this week. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Delegates at a national meeting on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Whitehorse say ensuring supports for people with the disability remains a priority.

“Just giving people awareness doesn’t make the difference,” said Dorothy Reid, an Abbotsford, B.C. parent who, with her husband, raised two kids with the disability.

“In terms of actual services and with some governmental changes and some governmental priorities, services have been cut back in some areas that are really, really essential for people with FASD,” said Reid.

Wenda Bradley, the executive director of FASSY, (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon) said that was a primary reason for founding the organization in 1996.

“That was a group of parents that recognized when their children became adults the supports were dropped,” said Bradley.

“That was the reason for starting FASSY and other supports to get in place so they could help these folks not be in trouble all their lives, not be unhappy,” she said.

Bradley said it’s becoming a bigger issue for parents who want to make sure their children are cared for when they aren’t around anymore.

Wenda Bradley, executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, says there remains much to be done to provide supports for adults with FASD. (Dave Croft/CBC)


“They themselves are becoming older and they are recognizing that who’s going to care for my person after I leave in the way that I want them to be cared for, in the way that they’re used to being cared for,” said Bradley.

Yukon is ahead of many jurisdictions in the country, said Audrey McFarlane, the executive director of the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network, the group that is meeting in Whitehorse.

“Yukon’s been a leader across the country in terms of many of the projects that they’ve started and we work very closely with them, the government folks and the service providers and the caregivers as well to help us decide which research needs to be provided,” said McFarlane.

Audrey McFarlane, executive director of the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network, says Yukon is one of the leaders in Canada on FASD programs and services. (Dave Croft/CBC)

McFarlane said some Canadian jurisdictions are just at the point now where Yukon was 20 years ago in terms of awareness of FASD.

Still, Bradley said there is much to be done in Yukon. She said there needs to be more supporting-living housing units.

She also hopes a mentoring system can be put in place for those who regularly encounter people with FASD. She said people working in areas like social services and policing may be aware of FASD, but not know how to convert that knowledge into action.

Simon Laplante from Winnipeg adopted a child at birth who wasn’t diagnosed with FASD until she was 16 when she got into trouble with the law.

The support she’s received since then have made a difference, said Laplante.

“She’s cleaned up her life, she’s on the right path,” he said.


Dorothy Reid and Simon Laplante are two of the parents of adult FASD children in Whitehorse for the meeting.(Dave Croft/CBC)

A teacher and school administrator, Laplante said he has also become much better in his job because of what he has learned about FASD.

Similarly, Reid,  a former mental health worker in the corrections system, said it became obvious to her that there are a massive number of inmates in prisons with undiagnosed FASD.

“In some ways it was good because I had the personal experience that could help me in terms of developing the programs for men with FASD,” she said.

“On the other hand it was hard because sometimes you sort of see the same kinds of things in the offenders that I would see in my kids and it got a little scary at times,” said Reid.

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In The News: ‘Miscarriage of justice’ after man serves 6 months for crime he couldn’t have committed

manitoba-law-courts-building-stockA man who spent six months in prison for a crime he could not possibly have committed suffered a “miscarriage of justice,” NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine said in the Legislature on Monday.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal acquitted Richard Joseph Catcheway, who had pleaded guilty to breaking into a Winnipeg home on Sept. 9, 2017, even though at the time he was an inmate at Brandon Correctional Centre.

“The legal system failed Mr. Catcheway. Neither the prosecutor, nor the defence, or anyone else in the justice system, spotted the obvious truth. It was impossible for Mr. Catcheway to commit this crime,” Fontaine said.

Catcheway suffers from fetal-alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and drug addiction, Fontaine said.

A few weeks after Catcheway’s guilty plea in November, the sentence administrator at Brandon Correctional Centre sent a letter to counsel telling them that Catcheway could not have committed the crime.

On May 10, the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously to allow Catcheway to withdraw his plea and quashed his conviction.

“We are all of the view that, in light of the fresh evidence that conclusively proves the accused’s innocence, it would understandably be a miscarriage of justice to uphold his guilty plea,” the judges wrote in the ruling.

Fontaine asked what steps the government is taking to prevent similar cases. Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said the ongoing review of the justice system will seek to address these issues.

“This is obviously a very unfortunate incident,” Stefanson said. “I will say from the system standpoint, we want to always look at ways to improve the system and improve communication in the criminal justice system.”

Stefanson said the government inherited a backlogged system from the previous NDP administration, which is why they ordered the system-wide review.

Fontaine said the province risks more similar cases because it froze funding for Legal Aid.

“An overloaded and underfunded Legal Aid system opens the door to a miscarriage of justice,” the NDP MLA said.

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Kids Brain Health Network: Beyond the numbers: Why Canadian neurodisability prevalence rates matter


Rob More remembers sitting in on a meeting where two parents were telling the school principal that their children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) needed more support. The school psychologist chimed in to inform them that FASD was not a recognized disability.

For More, a special needs educator and parent advocate, the story encapsulates the challenges faced by families and youth with FASD.

“When you have a situation where parents are trying to convince a principal that a medical professional is wrong and they are right – well, that’s a really hard argument to make,” he says, explaining that at the time FASD didn’t even have a medical code.

For people living with a heavily stigmatized and often invisible disability like FASD, counting the number of people in a population affected by the condition, known as prevalence, can serve as a powerful tool to change policy and advocate for supports. Until April 2018, all that Canadians concerned about the issue had to go on was a rough estimate that recently proved to be inaccurate.

This spring, a study led by Dr. Svetlana Popova, senior scientist at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research suggested that between 2-3 percent of schoolchildren aged 7-9 in the Greater Toronto Area have FASD.

“[It] was urgently needed,” Dr. Popova told an interviewer for CBC’s Metro Morning. “The prevalence of FASD in the general population was unknown – we didn’t know how many people with FASD exist in Canada.”

That figure has been pegged at 1 million, based on an extrapolation from data Popova and colleagues collected in 40 elementary schools.

“This study is eye-popping, and the effects of FASD on the Canadian landscape can’t be ignored any more,” says More, who has three adopted children living with the neurodisability. “We finally have empirical data — not just our opinion or websites, but empirical data we can turn to and refute any misinformation that exists in terms of FASD.”

New figures for Autism invite comparison

The previous month, first-in-Canada prevalence figures for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were announced by the Public Health Agency in Canada (PHAC): 1:66 Canadian youth are currently living with autism. Provincial governments in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia and the Yukon partnered with the federal government, researchers, families and advocacy groups to produce the report, which was more than a decade in the making.

“People are still surprised that by 1.5 percent of children have autism – that figure has received quite a bit of attention,” says Allison Pooley, executive director of the Asante Centre, a British Columbia-based organization that offers assessment and diagnostic services, family and community support, as well as education and training, for FASD, autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.
“Most people working in the field of FASD are not surprised by the fact that it’s twice as common as autism, and crosses all socio-economic and cultural boundaries. But this information is new to the average person.”

The FASD study debunks the stereotypes reflected in public opinion, according to James Reynolds, KBHN’s FASD project lead (Queen’s University). “These were kids living with their biological parents in affluent parts of the GTA who have been identified as having FASD,” says Dr. Reynolds. “Now, sitting in the Ontario legislature I’m able to look MPPs in the eye and tell them this not something that’s only happening up in the north in rural communities. This is something that’s happening two kilometres from here.”

“Now in all of our advocacy efforts – whenever we meet with decision makers – we have science behind us proving the scope of the problem, therefore what strategies they need to start putting in place to mitigate the long-term impact and cost associated with failure to identify and support these kids,” says Reynolds. “Collectively, our voice is starting to get louder and louder.”

Next Steps

Deborah Pugh, executive director of ACT-Autism Community Training is a member of the PHAC advisory committee, and has been involved in the autism prevalence initiative since 2011. She describes the recent ASD report as one of the most in-depth works of its kind in the world. Canada’s surveillance system captured 40 per cent of the population between the ages of five and 17 who had received an official diagnosis.

“It’s really important to have Canadian data that’s comprehensive, and that scientists and families can look at and be assured that this gives a very strong, clear picture of our current situation and how we have to plan for the future,” says Pugh.

“The most important thing is what are we going to do with these numbers: what are the next steps, how are policymakers going to inform their decision making based on this data, and will we have responsiveness on the parts of the provincial or federal governments?”

Pugh credits the ASD community across the country for their determination to push for an official government study of this magnitude, and hopes similar reports will be done for other neurodisabilities in the near future.

“It’s important to note that this is not supposed to be just about ASD,” she adds. “We hope this report is a precedent on which the other conditions will be examined, particularly FASD but also other neurological conditions. Many of them overlap, and it’s only when we get a clear picture can we fully understand what’s going on.”

Sidebar – After Counting, What Then?

Working in the FASD field for the last 15 years, Allison Pooley is used to seeing the neurodisability fly below radar.

Since the publication of the prevalence figures for FASD, multiple media outlets have approached Pooley, the executive director of the Asante Centre, a multi-site diagnostic and service centre in British Columbia, seeking to understand the implications of the prevalence study. This is an exciting first stage of inquiry, Pooley reflects, one she hope will elicit significant response from policymakers and funders over the next year.

Advocacy will be essential in the developing dialogue about FASD, she says, “as we try to prevent individuals from falling through the cracks in every system. This study helps add weight to advocacy initiatives across Canada, finally demonstrating the importance of the conversation and how we can coordinate efforts.”

Before, FASD was never been part of the conversation. But it’s catching fire now.

Kindling was already smoldering in Quebec between March 21 and April 24. FASD has typically had low visibility, in the province, but more than 1,800 people urgently pressed the Government of Quebec to implement an FASD action plan between March 21 and April 24, citing the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec. On May 1, Public Health Opposition Critic May Lise Lavallée, MP (Repentigny) introduced a petition in Quebec’s National Assembly, reflecting the public outcry.

Strong advocacy by parents in Quebec’s autism community saw some success when last year, the government boosted funding by $29M annually and a one-time additional infusion of $11M to address issues across the lifespan. This was less than half the amount called for by the community. Children with autism are still waitlisted two years after their diagnosis, lined up for services they may not receive before aging out of eligibility.

Changing the system

“The question now is how we’re going to correct a lot of the inefficiencies that exist in the system,” remarked Warren Greenstone, president of the Miriam Foundation, an organization involved in autism care since the 1960s, at the time in the Montreal Gazette.

“Prevalence was an important starting point in our consideration of autism and intellectual disability and the changing needs of people over their life course,” says Malvina Klag, president of the Miriam Foundation-funded See Things My Way Centre for Innovation. Now focused on piloting new approaches to service across the lifespan, the Centre’s goals are replicability and catalyzing change in the public health system.

“We’re here to help disrupt the existing system and bring about much-needed improvements,” she says. “However, in order to do so, beyond overall prevalence and prevalence by age, we need to know more about prevalence of the various sub-groups within these populations according to their support needs.”

The system in Quebec is in the process of changing itself. Reorganization and a new focus on gap analysis, needs assessment and program evaluation are taking root within elements of the Quebec health care system, including those that touch children and youth with neurodisabilties.

Suzanne Cloutier, associate director of rehabilitation for the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal – a centre that provides services for the highly diverse population of people with disabilities with its geographic area – says that “for most of our history here in Quebec, we’ve provided rehabilitation and care. It was much more maintenance-oriented. Now we’re asking, ‘what can you achieve, what kind of impact will your action have on the client’s daily life, and will that be maintained over time’?”

The prevalence figures for FASD didn’t surprise Cloutier, who suspects many, if not most of Montreal’s children with prenatal alcohol exposure have not been diagnosed.  For the time being, the notion of prevalence won’t change the reality that children and youth showing signs of, or already diagnosed with the neurodisability, will not be likely be seen in rehabilitation centres. The treatments on offer aren’t targeted to their needs.

Are National Strategies the Answer?

Members of the FASD community are hopeful that armed with prevalence figures that are scientifically sound, the federal and provincial governments will recognize the scope of the problem and respond with increased funding, services, and supports. In the 2018 $300 billion federal budget, no money was allocated to FASD, an issue Executive Director of the CanFASD’s research network Audrey McFarlane recently explained in a blog post.

“One reason is that there is no national strategy for coordinating Canada’s efforts and response to FASD,” McFarlane writes. “We also recognize that many families are unable to advocate for their loved ones because of the stigma and shame that continues to surround FASD. We are proud of the families and professionals who are advocating for their loved ones with FASD, but time and time again, the response to their advocacy is long waitlists or an absence of services altogether. We know a lot about FASD, but there is still work to be done.”

Looking forward, many FASD advocates envision the community, researchers, and provincial and federal governments uniting in a way similar to how the ASD community in Canada has come together.

Even with the advantages of more funding and comparative cohesion and momentum, the autism community has not succeeded in convincing the Conservative or Liberal Governments to implement a national strategy.

Senator Jim Munson, a longtime supporter of the autism community, applauds the prevalence statistics, saying they “begin to provide the evidence-based data needed to inform policy and programs.”

But a national strategy is also necessary, he states in an April 17 editorial in the Ottawa Citizen. “It names the partners, what their role is and how they need to work collaboratively. It recognizes the federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions and the areas of that collaboration. It gives meaning to the scientific research. It defines what federal leadership is. It names the gaps in policy and funding. It highlights best practices in all the multi-sectors.

“The federal government in its 2018 budget announced some program funding for two areas of initiative. It is hoped that this announcement will help us get to a national strategy. Yet it is not enough. Governments and organizations are working in silos and missing opportunities to collaborate and bring innovative thinking. Too many communities are underserved and under-resourced.”

Building Together

Both Rob More, father of three “inspiring and amazing” children living with FASD, and Allison Pooley, working in a community-based organization, would like to see FASD organizations achieve gains similar to those made by the ASD community. “We need to build upon public understanding of autism that everyone has worked so hard to develop, and leverage that knowledge and compassion to address other neurodevelopmental needs like FASD,” she says.

“We feel the FASD community needs a larger voice, and we need to be louder and more unified as a community than we are right now,” adds More, noting the new statistics are already working to unite researchers, families, and advocacy groups.

“The biggest thing this number does is tell people they’re not alone in this,” concludes More. “It doesn’t eliminate the shame and the stigma, but it certainly lessens it. These numbers give legitimacy to what those of us living with this disability have been saying – and that brings us hope.”

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New Prevalence Estimates of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Range From 1 to 5 Percent in U.S. Communities


A study of more than 6,000 first-graders across 4 U.S. communities has found that a significant number of children have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), with conservative rates ranging from 1 to 5 percent in community samples. The new findings represent more accurate prevalence estimates of FASD than prior research. Previous FASD estimates were based on smaller study populations and did not reflect the overall U.S. population.

The term FASD represents a range of health effects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Individuals with FASD may experience growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and organ damage, including to the brain. The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the brain can result in deficits that contribute to physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social challenges throughout life.

“Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading preventable cause of developmental disabilities worldwide,” says George F. Koob, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “Estimating the prevalence of FASD in the United States has been complex due to the challenges in identifying prenatally exposed children. The findings of this study confirm that FASD is a significant public health problem, and strategies to expand screening, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment are needed to address it.”

The study was conducted by the Collaboration on FASD Prevalence (CoFASP) consortium, which studies the prevalence of FASD among U.S. schoolchildren. Before the study began, consortium members established standardized classification criteria for FASD based on facial features, growth, and neurodevelopmental performance. The findings from the study, which was led by Philip May, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis, and Christina Chambers, Ph.D., of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, were reported in JAMA in February.

Researchers collected data between 2010 and 2016 on 6,639 children in 4 communities from the U.S. Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast, and Pacific Southwest regions. The sites were selected to be more reflective of U.S. community populations than previous studies. At each site, first-graders in public and private schools were recruited across two academic years and evaluated based on the FASD criteria. Prenatal alcohol exposure was assessed by interviewing mothers or other close relatives.

The researchers found that the prevalence estimates for FASD among the selected sites ranged from 1.1 to 5 percent. This was the most conservative estimate and assumed no additional cases of FASD would be found in first-graders who did not participate in the study. When the researchers used a “weighted prevalence,” an estimate that accounts for those who were eligible but did not participate in the study, the estimated prevalence of FASD was higher—ranging from 3.1 to 9.8 percent among the study sites. Of the 222 children diagnosed with FASD in the study, only 2 had been previously diagnosed with FASD, although many parents and guardians were aware of the children’s learning and behavioral challenges. This finding suggests that children with FASD often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

“We believe our study is the first to use school-based assessments, a common methodology and classification system, and expert in-person evaluations for the full range of FASD on many children from communities across the United States,” says Dr. May.

“This comprehensive approach should reflect estimates that more closely resemble the prevalence of FASD in the United States, and further highlights the public health burden of FASD,” adds Dr. Chambers.

Estimating the prevalence of FASD is challenging, in part, because FASD can be difficult to distinguish from other developmental disorders that share certain learning and behavioral deficits. Also, individuals can have FASD without the hallmark facial features of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Most previous studies of FASD prevalence in the United States have been conducted using surveillance or clinic-based studies, which misses undiagnosed cases of FASD and leads to underestimates. Studies have also been conducted among high-risk populations, which results in prevalence rates that cannot be generalized to the population as a whole.

The previously accepted FASD estimate of 1 percent of U.S. children resulted from clinic-based studies and studies of single communities, which assessed small samples among selected populations.

“Because of the hidden nature of the disabilities, some have continued to believe that FASD is a rare disorder, or they question its prevalence,” says Tom Donaldson, President of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

“I would say this research truly once and for all firmly established the magnitude of FASD. It’s now really time for us to push forward and make this study the catalyst for change and progress.”

Soon after the findings were published in JAMA, the lead study authors, NIAAA experts, and FASD advocates came together to discuss the significance of the study. A recording of the teleconference is available at:

May, P.A.; Chambers, C.D.; Kalberg, W.O.; Zellner, J.; Feldman, H.; Buckley, D.; et al. Prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in 4 U.S. communities. JAMA 319(5):474–482, 2018. PMID: 29411031

Our daughter lived with FASD for 45 years. This is her legacy.



For the Juneau Emprie
Each of our children and grandchildren are a special gift. We love them for who they are, and taught them about faith and life. Each of them transforms us beyond our understanding.

Parenthood is an unfolding of realities that break down stereotypes and assumptions. A young parent’s statement: “My kids will NEVER do that!” may slowly or suddenly change to “I love and value them as they are.” We may wish things were different, but unconditional love places equal value on each family member.

Our daughter Tanya once wrote, “Out of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” She taught us that people born with FASD, suffer from Schizo-Affective Disorder and substance abuse have much to contribute to society. She lived through homelessness, prison, unimaginable trauma and indignities. She was seen by most as a “throw away.” Unconditional love could not remove the pain or heal the wounds, but love, caring and compassion were always needed. To us she was a precious gift from God.

With all her difficulties, she described life this way: “I was adopted by Laura and Larry Rorem at 8 months old. Their goal was give a child love and a home, teach about God, and give them values. I was raised by Laura and Larry Rorem. What I learned is — forgiveness, respect, kindness and God are ALL ABOUT LOVE.”


Two per cent of GTA students likely have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, new CAMH study shows


TORONTO, April 10, 2018 /CNW/ – Two to three per cent of children in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), according to the first population-based study of its kind in Canada, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). This is at least twice as high as the previous crude estimate of one per cent in the general population of Canada.

“FASD is a leading cause of developmental delays in children in Canada, who, in many cases, require lifelong assistance for their health, education and social service needs,” says Dr. Svetlana (Lana) Popova, Senior Scientist at CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, the study’s principal investigator. “This study clearly shows the scope of the problem, the need for greater awareness to prevent alcohol use during pregnancy, and the need for the supports required by people with FASD and their families.”

The current research is part of a global study on FASD prevalence, guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). It included 2,555 children aged seven to nine years from 40 schools in five school boards in the GTA, representing four out of the five regional municipalities.

FASD is caused when an unborn baby is exposed to alcohol. The effects of FASD may include physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities, which can range from mild to severe. Accurately estimating how frequently FASD occurs is an important first step to creating effective prevention and support programs.

To identify cases of FASD across a large population, researchers used an approach called active case ascertainment – a surveillance strategy in which cases are actively sought for examination and diagnosis – along with collecting information on prenatal alcohol exposure. This methodology was developed under the guidance of internationally recognized experts from the WHO and NIAAA.

During the first phase of the study, students were pre-screened to assess their physical development, behaviour and learning problems, and facial features characteristic of FASD. During the second phase, students, who met one or more predetermined criteria, underwent a neurodevelopmental assessment, along with typically developing children selected randomly as a control group. Eligible mothers were then invited for interviews.

Based on these assessments, a multidisciplinary team of Canada’s leading experts in FASD diagnosis held case-by-case consultations. The prevalence of FASD was estimated to be between 1.8 and 2.9 per cent.

“These estimates likely reflect the prevalence of FASD in similar large metropolitan areas in Canada,” says Dr. Popova. “The estimates are not applicable to populations in remote northern communities, children in care, or people in prison or psychiatric care facilities, which have shown much higher rates of FASD.”

“The negative effects of alcohol consumption on the fetus can occur during any stage of pregnancy, but often they occur before the mother knew she was pregnant,” says Dr. Popova.

This is why it is recommended that the safest course of action is to not drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy or when planning to become pregnant.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit or follow @CAMHnews and @CAMHResearch on Twitter.

SOURCE Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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