Tag Archives: FASD

International FASD Awareness

September 9th was International FASD Awareness Day. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the most common non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK, is thought to affect 2% of the UK and US populations, though some people claim that is a huge under-estimate, with up to 5% affected. Within certain communities – care experienced children – it is significantly higher, with perhaps a third of adoptive children receiving a diagnosis. That is a challenge in itself, with only relatively recent wider recognition of this disorder, above and beyond the facial characteristics which only show on a small proportion of children affected.

FASD is an umbrella term for people who have neurological difficulties resulting from exposure to alcohol in the womb. It impacts on growth, memory and learning, behaviour issues such as anxiety, and physical problems with hearing and sight. The fact that it is entirely preventable is a keystone of the campaigning groups in this country and elsewhere; with a great deal of frustration about responses to government advice to reduce or eliminate drinking in pregnancy.

Parents report an array of challenges at home, including issues around behaviour; and many children will struggle at school. Dr Raja Mukherjee, Britain’s leading FASD expert, working at the National Clinic for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, warns that, without appropriate support, 90% of children go on to experience mental health problems as adults, and many end up homeless or in prison. To mark International FASD Awareness Day, Adoption UK released a report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which looks at the challenges associated with diagnosing FASD and offers recommendations for how health, social care and education authorities across the UK can better tackle the condition among care experienced children.

For more information about FASD, link to support groups and organisations. Within the UK groups such as NOFAS-UK and FASD Network UK provide information, support and training, or follow Dr Mukherjee on twitter for a range of links and discussions.

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One size doesn’t fit all

Some time ago I had a conversation with a parent of a child with an ASD diagnosis about the use of public care for both respite and therapeutic purposes, particularly when there has been violent and abusive behaviour towards parents present. Since then we have corresponded from time to time as media interest or legislative procedures have bobbed up and down.

The issue which initially brought us together was with regard to the need for specific understanding of the different and differing needs of neurologically atypical children and young people. We were concerned about a “One size fits all” approach in many aspects of support for families, and a shortage of specific training in neurological conditions for many engaging with families regularly in their work. We acknowledged that some conditions (such as PDA) had only recently been identified, but that other diagnoses were well known and well documented, so that there seemed little excuse for ignorance about the effects on mood and mental health, learning and employment opportunities, behaviour and offending. This parent had undertaken significant research into the diagnosis, communication with family, documentation and support for children and young people with ASD, and found that many went undiagnosed or their specific needs unrecognised, despite their over-representation within care and the juvenile justice system. Continue reading

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