Local group looking to raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

September 11, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown

It’s an invisible injury.

If you looked directly at someone who has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), you may never know they have it. Some have discreet facial markers but it often presents itself in behaviour. 

“For the most part people with FASD do not have anything about them that one would look at and know they may need extra support,” said Tara Leskey, FASD Coordinator for Dufferin-Wellington. 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is a disability that is caused by being exposed to alcohol prenatally. FASD as a disability affects both the brain and the body. 

“People with FASD typically have a challenging time understanding action and consequences, and may present as simply poorly behaved instead of as someone with atypical neurological development,” said Leskey. “This means that people may not have as much patience and understanding in responding to them in a way that meets their needs.” 

Dufferin Wellington FASD will be dedicating the entire month of September to raise awareness and address the misinformation and stigma associated with FASD. FASD International Awareness Day will also be taking place on Sept. 9 – a day that has been held since 1999 to bring global awareness. 

A 2016 census profile indicated that over 11,378 individuals in Dufferin and Wellington are living with FASD with 2,761 children and youth under the age of 19. 

“It is estimated that FASD affects 4 percent of the Canadian population, higher than Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome combined,” said Leskey.

One aspect of FASD Awareness Day is to address the stigmas that both those who have FASD and parents deal with. Jennifer Moore, Executive Director at Dufferin Child and Family Services says that mothers may deal with judgement for others, self-guilt and shame about exposing their baby to alcohol while pregnant. 

“It is very important to bear in mind that often people do not know they are pregnant until a few weeks into the pregnancy. If someone uses alcohol on a regular basis –even one glass of wine with dinner, for example – it is easy for them to have exposed their baby to alcohol unknowingly,” said Moore. 

The event is also working to change misinformation surrounding FASD. 

“One misunderstanding is the prevalence of FASD and assumptions about who may be affected,” said Moore. “Behavioural symptoms are often misunderstood as the challenge to be supported, when in fact there are structural changes to the brain that result in challenges with memory, learning, attention, reasoning, and judgement.” 

As part of showing support for the awareness day is wearing a t-shirt or shoes that are red. Dufferin Wellington FASD are asking people to leave a painted red rock along the Island Lake Trail or Riverside Park and Royal City Park in Guelph as part of spreading awareness. 

FASD International Awareness Day took place on Sept. 9. To find out more information on services and support available go to 

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