If You’re Drinking, Don’t Get Pregnant

 

 
The stern advice from Stacy Wolbeck, Coordinator, Prairie Central Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD) is simple and straight forward, “If you’re drinking, don’t get pregnant,” and “ If you’re pregnant, don’t drink”. Stacy was in attendance at a two day event recognizing FASD Day that was being held in conjunction with an educational seminar the Prairie Central FASD Association was hosting at the Wayside Inn in Wetaskiwin.  
Ms. Wolbeck explained the workshop had a focus on intervention; how agencies, parents, foster parents and care givers can collaborate to develop a support plan to ensure care for the individual’s special needs. More than 120 people; parents, foster parents, care givers, staff and other people having an interest in FASD came from across the province to attend the two day workshop conducted by Donna Debolt, a social worker with 30 years of experience specializing in FASD.  She described how workshop participants will learn to recognize and understand the complicated issues surrounding an FASD, FASD interventions, and will learn why our systems usual strategies for ‘dealing with’ this population are failing.  
Donna, along with Mary Berube have developed a document outlining the needs of families living with affected children. The Debolt/Berube paper, “Guidelines to Intervention in Families,” outlines how social workers can best meet the needs of the various kinds of families in the fetal alcohol spectrum. Nearly all adoptive and foster families would be classified as “Unaffected Adult Caring for Affected Children.”
The authors describe the parent as reporting “high frustration, exhaustion, isolation and depression.” He or she uses crisis language; may say “crazy things,” and may want the child or children out of the home. The parent may also have problems with adult relationships, lose his sense of humor, say that “nothing works,” and claim that previous attempts to find help were useless or damaging. He may be in financial crisis, and may have developed addictions that need to be assessed. 
Debolt and Berube also outline the needs of children with FASD -- supports they rarely receive, supports that all of us should be fighting for. They need early diagnosis of FASD, followed by assessment of strengths and limitations, protected environments, increased supervision and structure plus a  supportive family that understands their disabilities.
A management team, which could include professionals in medicine, speech/language, education, skill-building, and behavior management focused on prevention of behaviours. (We can’t change the child: we have to figure out a way to change the environment.)
I’d like to add another need: financial assistance. Nearly every family of FASD children is desperately short of cash, because of the youngsters’ many special needs.
Following greetings and words of encouragement from Alderman Patricia McQuarrie, the participants drove from the Wayside Inn to the Horizon’s Centre where they were treated to a BBQ prepared with the help of Horizon Centre clients with FASD.  A walk that had been planned from the Wayside to Horizons to raise awareness about FASD was cancelled due to windy, cold weather.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects that can develop in a fetus in association with high levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The main effect of FAS is permanent central nervous system damage, especially to the brain. Developing brain cells and structures can be malformed or have development interrupted by prenatal alcohol exposure; this can create an array of primary cognitive and functional disabilities (including poor memory, attention deficits, impulsive behavior, and poor cause-effect reasoning) as well as secondary disabilities (for example, predispositions to mental health problems and drug addiction).Alcohol exposure presents a risk of fetal brain damage at any point during a pregnancy, since brain development is ongoing throughout pregnancy.
Alcohol crosses the placental barrier and can stunt fetal growth or weight, create distinctive facial stigmata, damage neurons and brain structures, which can result in psychological or behavioral problems, and cause other physical damage. Surveys found that in the United States, 10–15% of pregnant women report having recently drunk alcohol, and up to 30% drink alcohol at some point during pregnancy. 
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_alcohol_syndrome
Choosing to drink alcohol during pregnancy may result in giving birth to a child who will live and struggle with  mental and physical deficiencies for his or her entire life. To repeat Stacey’s advice, “If you’re drinking, don’t get pregnant,” and “ If you’re pregnant, don’t drink”. 
For more information contact:  Stacy Wolbeck, Prairie Central FASD Association, 780-672-0141.
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