Category Archives: FASD Resources and Information

ACEs and Toxic Stress: Frequently Asked Questions

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Click here to download infographic.

What are ACEs?

The term “ACEs” is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences. It originated in a groundbreaking study conducted in 1995 by the Centers for Disease Control and the Kaiser Permanente health care organization in California. In that study, “ACEs” referred to three specific kinds of adversity children faced in the home environment—various forms of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction.

The key findings of dozens of studies using the original ACEs data are: (1) ACEs are quite common, even among a middle-class population: more than two-thirds of the population report experiencing one ACE, and nearly a quarter have experienced three or more. (2) There is a powerful, persistent correlation between the more ACEs experienced and the greater the chance of poor outcomes later in life, including dramatically increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, smoking, poor academic achievement, time out of work, and early death.

How do ACEs relate to toxic stress?

ACEs research shows the correlation between early adversity and poor outcomes later in life. Toxic stress explains how ACEs ”get under the skin” and trigger biological reactions that lead to those outcomes. In the early 2000s, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Childcoined the term “toxic stress” to describe extensive, scientific knowledge about the effects of excessive activation of stress response systems on a child’s developing brain, as well as the immune system, metabolic regulatory systems, and cardiovascular system. Experiencing ACEs triggers all of these interacting stress response systems. When a child experiences multiple ACEs over time—especially without supportive relationships with adults to provide buffering protection—the experiences will trigger an excessive and long-lasting stress response, which can have a wear-and-tear effect on the body, like revving a car engine for days or weeks at a time.

Importantly, the Council also expanded its definition of adversity beyond the categories that were the focus of the initial ACE study to include community and systemic causes—such as violence in the child’s community and experiences with racism and chronic poverty—because the body’s stress response does not distinguish between overt threats from inside or outside the home environment, it just recognizes when there is a threat, and goes on high alert.

What is trauma, and how does it connect to ACEs and toxic stress?

While trauma has many definitions, typically in psychology it refers to an experience of serious adversity or terror—or the emotional or psychological response to that experience. Trauma-informed care or services are characterized by an understanding that problematic behaviors may need to be treated as a result of the ACEs or other traumatic experiences someone has had, as opposed to addressing them as simply willful and/or punishable actions.

For more information, please visit https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/aces-and-toxic-stress-frequently-asked-questions/

CanFASD: Back to School #2 and #3

Back to School #2: FASD In Educational Settings. Part 1 – Simon Laplante

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Simon Laplante is the Co-Chair of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee and the adoptive father of a courageous young woman who struggles daily with ARND. He has a master’s degree in education and did his thesis on the impact of children with FASD on parents’ relationships with the school, community, and each other.

Simon has been working in the Manitoba public school system for 30 years as a teacher, vice-principal, principal, and assistant superintendent. He is presently a professor at the Université de St-Boniface in the Faculty of Education. Simon’s areas of interest are educational leadership, second language learning, Aboriginal education, and FASD. Fully bilingual, Simon has been involved in public speaking engagements on FASD for the last 10 years in educational settings and provincial conferences.

Simon can be reached at slaplante@shaw.ca.

Let’s be honest! Some educators know very little about FASD.  Many caregivers will testify to this lack of FASD awareness among teachers and educational leaders in general. It is not that people don’t care – they do! But caring and knowing how to work with students who have FASD are a world apart!

Students with FASD tend to do better in elementary school settings and struggle in secondary school settings. In fact, some high school students with FASD may not graduate. Some of the fundamental differences between elementary and secondary school are relationship and consistency. While in elementary school, a student with FASD will spend most of their day with the same teacher, forging trust and predictability. In secondary settings, going from one teacher to the other every hour or so, and having to adjust to different teaching styles and expectations, can be overwhelming for these students.

High schools need to really re-think their approaches when educating students with FASD to build stronger relationships and support educational success!

Simon Laplante
Educator and FAC member

Back to School #3: FASD in Educational Settings. Part 2 – Dorothy Reid

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Dorothy Reid is the Co-Chair of the CanFASD Family Advisory Committee. She is also the owner of Reid Wellness Consulting, providing consultation and training to individuals and organizations on maintaining wellness. Dorothy previously worked with the Correctional System primarily in the area of mental health service development and delivery. She has extensive professional experience in working with individuals with FASD and other mental health concerns, and she has developed interventions for offenders with cognitive deficits. After obtaining a diagnosis of FASD for their two sons, Dorothy and her husband have been involved in the development of support groups for parent and caregivers of children with disabilities.

Dorothy can be reached at reidwellness@gmail.com.

In our last post on FASD and education, Simon Laplante hit the nail on the head when he discussed the difficulties transitioning from elementary to high school for many students with FASD.

In my experience with two sons, there was a world of difference in their educational experience.  My oldest son was not diagnosed until he was 10 years old.  Between grade 5 and grade 8, he was in three different schools as both we and the school administrators tried to find a program that could address his needs.  His IQ was in the average range but he had ADHD and had experienced a lot of early childhood disruptions.  When he hit high school, the demand for independence exceeded his capacity to self-regulate.  He received no special supports and ended his high school experience after grade 9.

My youngest son was diagnosed at 4 years old.  He worked with a speech and language therapist prior to school.  He had an awesome kindergarten teacher who actually switched classes to be able to keep him in her class for the first three years of school.  The school principals knew him.  We had therapists and specialists who worked with the school to provide support to my son and his teachers.  At the point of transition to high school, his teacher and principal met with us to discuss options.  We all agreed that a specialized work skills/life skills program would be the most appropriate for him, so they worked hard to have him accepted in the program.  They were successful, and our high school experience with him was totally different.  He had the same teacher and teacher assistant for five years.  Even though his IQ was in the border line range (you know, low enough to need help but too high to qualify for it), he was able to gain academic skills as well as social and employment skills.

Simon was right on target when he said that the relationship between the student and the educator is key.   Knowledge, commitment, and options in education for students with FASD can make the difference between spectacular school failure and associated loss of self-worth, and the tremendous accomplishment of school success.

Dorothy Reid,
Family Advisory Committee
CanFASD Research Network

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CanFASD: Back to School!

September usually means one thing: it’s time to go back to school! This transition can be particularly stressful for students with FASD, as well as their caregivers and teachers.

Throughout the month of September, we will be posting a Back to School Series, highlighting different issues related to education and FASD.

To kick off the series, we have summarized a recent issue paper below on education and FASD.

Throughout the rest of the month, we will release guest posts from professionals and caregivers with lived experiences, as well as information about alcohol use among post-secondary students.

Back to School #1: Educational Supports for Students with FASD

Students with FASD can benefit in both their school and personal lives with the help of educational supports and individualized education plans (IEPs). Despite educational supports being available in most school systems, current strategies are often outdated, not FASD-specific, and lack the accessible information teachers need to prepare ideal IEPs for students with FASD.

Some of the challenges for students with FASD, parents, and educators include:

  1. Ineffective functional assessments and psychoeducational reports
  • It can be extremely difficult for teachers to find value with the information provided in current functional assessments
  • Teachers claim functional assessments lack comprehensiveness, and focus mostly on the FASD diagnosis, only highlighting weaknesses of the student
  • Assessment reports are often long and filled with technical jargon
  1. Poor teacher education and training on FASD
  • Many teachers are not fully educated on, or do not have the proper resources on, FASD
  1. Disjointed communication between all parties
  • There can be disconnect in the collaboration between all parties involved with intervention for students with FASD
  • When collaboration is sparse, individual program planning becomes disjointed, and the complex needs of the student with FASD are difficult to meet

Evidence shows that positive learning outcomes are more likely with revised strategies and improved educational supports for students with FASD through all levels of diagnosis, assessment, and intervention planning.

Recommendations:

  • Early diagnosis is essential to understand and meet the complex needs of individuals with FASD
  • Improving functional assessments is required to optimize IEPs, and psychologists should gather a more comprehensive overview of the student, individualizing the assessment, highlighting the strengths and skills of the student, and noting how to use and apply these strengths in the classroom
  • Teachers and other educational support staff should be provided with the proper resources, education, and up-to-date training on FASD to ensure that they are equipped to make sound decisions on the best learning styles and student programming
  • Parents and caregivers should have access to FASD educational resources to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the disorder, and to better serve the unique needs of their child at home
  • Stronger communication and collaboration between psychologists, teachers, educational aides, parents, and the community will lead to more effective IEPs, and better sharing of expertise among all parties

For more information on educational supports for students with FASD and current teaching strategies, please refer to the following resources:

Click here to read the full issue paper devoted to this topic.

Visit the CanFASD website for more information and resources related to education and FASD.

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“I am not broken, I do not need fixing” – Myles Himmelreich

Myles Himmelreich has FASD and is a motivational speaker. Hear this incredibly powerful message from this amazing man and change maker!

Research: The Effects of Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse on Maternal Nutritional Profile during Pregnancy

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Nutrients. 2018 Aug; 10(8): 1008.
Published online 2018 Aug 2. doi:  10.3390/nu10081008

Abstract

The consumption of alcohol and drugs of abuse among pregnant women has experienced a significant increase in the last decades. Suitable maternal nutritional status is crucial to maintain the optimal environment for fetal development but if consumption of alcohol or drugs of abuse disrupt the intake of nutrients, the potential teratogenic effects of these substances increase.

Despite evidence of the importance of nutrition in addicted pregnant women, there is a lack of information on the effects of alcohol and drugs of abuse on maternal nutritional status; so, the focus of this review was to provide an overview on the nutritional status of addicted mothers and fetuses.

Alcohol and drugs consumption can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, impairing the quality and quantity of proper nutrient and energy intake, resulting in malnutrition especially of micronutrients (vitamins, omega–3, folic acid, zinc, choline, iron, copper, selenium).

When maternal nutritional status is compromised by alcohol and drugs of abuse the supply of essential nutrients are not available for the fetus; this can result in fetal abnormalities like Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It is critical to find a strategy to reduce fetal physical and neurological impairment as a result of prenatal alcohol and drugs of abuse exposure combined with poor maternal nutrition. Prenatal nutrition interventions and target therapy are required that may reverse the development of such abnormalities.

Click here to access full research report.

We Love Wanda! CanFASD FASD Day Interview #4: Wanda Beland

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Wanda Beland is a member of CanFASD’s Family Advisory Committee and the Executive Director of the North West Region FASD Society. She and her husband are the adoptive parents of four adolescents and adults with FASD. Trained in education, Wanda has coordinated diagnostic clinics, FASD programs for all ages and Parent-Child Assistance Programs. Growing up  in a traditional First Nations family in the North, she brings remote and isolated area experience, especially  from aboriginal areas and perspectives.

You have an academic background in education. In what ways did this background prepare you to be a caregiver?

The academic background provided me with information about the developmental and psychological profiles of children and youth, as well as the tools to research, analyze, and adapt information, strategies, and techniques when working with children and youth.  Long term, the skills I learned also helped me to advocate within all systems for people with FASD. I would say that this was trial and error learning, but most systems are.  With the uniqueness of each of our children, trial, error and adaptations was the process within all learning and systems.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned as an adoptive parent of adolescents and adults with FASD?

The most important thing I’ve learned as an adoptive parent is unconditional love for my children’s’ lifetimes, being the support when it’s inconvenient, to pray continuously, and to have hope that there is a pathway through to the other side no matter what is happening in the moment.  I have also learned that I have to continually educate other adults and family in my children’s lives to try to get them to the same acceptance of limitations and recognition of the strengths. “Growing up” for an adult living with FASD is a different process, but does happen; the safety net we carefully weave for them as children and adolescents must remain as they move into the adult world.

How has your role as executive director for the NWR FASD Society and on the Parent Advisory Committee with CanFASD enriched your ability to care for people with FASD?

Being on the Family Advisory Committee and Executive Director of an agency that develops programs to support my adult children long term is my way of making a difference.  As the Executive Director, I have knowledge of the many challenges that individuals and families experience in the journey of FASD, and it allows me to share my own experiences and use the knowledge I have gained to help improve our programming to better address the needs of individuals and families. As a member of the FAC my hope is to help inform and guide research that will ensure my adult children and the individuals I work with through our agency will benefit from changes in systems that the research will inform.

What do you think is the best way to combat negative stereotypes that associate FASD with Indigenous groups in Canada?

The best way to combat the negative stereotypes about FASD and Indigenous groups is to acknowledge and educate about the prevalence of alcohol use throughout the world.  This information must first start with our own indigenous communities, so the leaders and individuals can educate those they come in contact with.  Next, we really need to make sure that the leaders at all levels have the core knowledge about the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure and the widespread impact it has in all communities, not specific cultures.

When preventing FASD in indigenous communities, it is important to take a culturally sensitive approach that is respectful of Indigenous history, and supportive of self-determination and cultural resurgence. In your experience, how is this best achieved?

Continuous relationship development with individuals, leaders, professionals, and agencies is the start of preventing FASD in all communities.  Building trust and sharing the information and knowledge with every individual, being available during the difficult times, as well as the celebrations, shows that the individual/agency is there for the community long term.  Being available to provide your expertise at whatever level when requested and being open and honest about what you do know and do not know in any situation is key.  Not worrying about the politics, but engaging with the people; not looking for acknowledgement, but working to make a difference and accepting that there are many pathways to get the message of prevention out and it will happen.  Accepting that whatever you can do to support someone within any moment is where the change of perception, knowledge and information on FASD or prevention begins or grows.

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