Nearly four percent of Canadians – or roughy 1.4 million people – are affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

A lifelong disability that’s often described as invisible, because only 10 per cent of those diagnosed have facial features that indicate FASD, individuals affected by the disorder can suffer from impairments ranging from diminished motor skills, poor attention skills and memory, a lack of language, curtailed cognitive ability or even significantly reduced executive functioning, making day-to-day living extremely challenging if not impossible.

Caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol, FASD is a condition that has flown under the radar for many years, partly because it is a spectrum disorder – no two individuals diagnosed with FASD experience the same challenges, making it difficult to clearly identify – as well because mothers have traditionally faced plenty of stigma when admitting to using alcohol during their pregnancy.

Even though FASD is two-and-a-half times more common than autism, public awareness is low and the stigma associated with the condition still remains.

Pathways Health Centre for Children resource worker Amber Arnold hopes to change that reality by speaking, creating programs and holding events to make Sarnia-Lambton into what she calls an FASD-informed community.

Arnold was hired to run Pathways’ FASD Resource Hub, as part of a provincial initiative launched in April 2018 to support families across Ontario deal with the disorder.

While Ontario was one of the last provinces to have a strategy in place to deal with people impacted by FASD, Arnold said it’s a case of better late than never.

“The goal of the strategy is to raise awareness about FASD … and to provide a range of resources and support for individuals and families who have received diagnoses or for those who suspect FASD,” she said.

“Our goal is to make Lambton County an FASD-informed community, providing access to support services and just kind of identifying that people who have FASD can be fully functioning members of society,” Arnold added. “We all have strengths and weaknesses; it’s just a case of putting the right supports in place for these people.” (Read more…)

Re-post from Sarnia & Lambton This Week, by Carl Hnatyshyn, October 10, 2019