Is a whole month dedicated to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) awareness really necessary? There are so many “awareness” months already for things like breast cancer, autism, and Down syndrome. Many people know of autism or can think of someone in their lives affected by cancer, but not FASD.
However, FASD is the leading known cause of intellectual disabilities in the United States. An estimated 40,000 babies a year are born with effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD affects more people than Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, and Spina Bifida combined.
Chances are, there are people in our lives right now who are affected by FASD. These people need us to be informed. The more we are aware, the better friends, neighbors, and community members we can be.
Three People Who Need You to Be Aware:
Individuals with FASD
When society is more aware of FASD, individuals with FASD are better able to thrive. Young children need doctors who are aware of FASD. The earlier children can be diagnosed and get intervention, the better outcomes they have. School-aged children need teachers who are understanding of the behavior and learning problems caused by the brain damage of FASD. Adolescents with FASD need friends who care and are accepting of how FASD affects their friend. Adults need communities, including work places, that are aware of the adaptive skills people with FASD use to function well.
Families benefit when friends and communities are aware. It is encouraging for families when their member with FASD is accepted by others. Friends who are aware of FASD also encourage families in other ways. Sticking to a consistent schedule is easier for families when friends accept that the reason is to provide predictable structure for a family member with FASD. A babysitter who is familiar with FASD can enable parents and guardians to attend seminars on FASD or support groups while providing peace of mind that the child will be cared for appropriately. Siblings of children with FASD need people to be aware in order to relieve the pressure of having to defend and explain their sibling to everyone.
Pregnant women also benefit when society is aware of FASD. Pregnant women need doctors who are up-to-date with the current information about FASD. They need doctors who are willing to discuss alcohol use during pregnancy. Women dependent on alcohol need communities who acknowledge the difficulties of alcoholism and provide support. Mothers of children with FASD need friends and community members who know that stigma about the cause of FASD only hurts people and does not help mothers, families, or individuals with FASD.
Which of these three people are in your life?
FASD touches our lives more than we are aware. Being aware makes a difference for the people in our lives. Simple changes to our understanding and attitudes can make life easier for those dealing with FASD.
Still think a whole month is too much for FASD?
At least take some time tomorrow, International FASD Awareness Day, to talk to someone with FASD and find out how it affects his or her life.
You can also hear people explain what FASD means to them in the following resources: