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NEWS RELEASE · 8th September 2010
M. of Healthy Living & Sport
Each year, on the ninth day of the ninth month, people in British Columbia and around the world recognize Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention and Support Day to raise awareness of this disorder and highlight the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.

FASD describes the range of harms caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. These may include lifelong physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities. Understanding no geographic, social or economic borders it can affect anyone regardless of income, education, community or background. It is estimated that every year in Canada, nine in every 1,000 babies are born with FASD.

"Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a disability that is often invisible and always irreversible," said Minister of Children and Family Development Mary Polak. "With close to 400 children born with FASD in British Columbia each year, supporting women to be healthy in child bearing years is vital. We need to recognize and understand the challenges that people living with FASD face each day. We have to look past the disability, past the behaviour or learning challenges as we provide the supports to help children, youth, adults and their families.

"When we see the person and find their strengths we can build on what they do well and assist them along a successful path in life."

FASD affects how the brain processes information with no two people affected in the same way. Effects can range from mild learning disabilities to more severe challenges where children may have difficulty responding to emotions, planning ahead or understanding the consequences of their actions.

"It is important to remember that there is no safe amount of alcohol, no safe type of alcohol, and no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy," said Minister of Healthy Living and Sport Ida Chong. "By raising awareness of this disorder, educating the community and encouraging prevention, we hope that we'll eventually be able to reduce the number of babies born with FASD in B.C. to zero."

One of the Province's most successful FASD initiatives is the Key Worker Program that began in 2006. Key Workers are at the centre of a network of local support services, helping families understand FASD, offering education and information, identifying community resources and providing emotional and practical support to families raising a child with FASD.

"Parents have told me that one of the best services I provide is that I understand when they talk about the challenges their kids have," said Scott McLaughlin, a key worker at Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre in Williams Lake. "They used to worry about being judged or about their child being judged or labelled. Parents used to think they were alone. Now they are connecting with other families who share their frustrations, their day-to-day challenges and their triumphs.

"It is important to remember that FASD is what these kids have - not who they are," added McLaughlin. "I work with children and youth who excel at drawing, sports and chess. They are all unique and wonderful kids doing incredible things despite having FASD - yet most of them, have at one point faced obstacles because few people understood the nature of what was going on inside them and how they functioned."

For more information on FASD, provincial prevention strategies and programs to assist children and their families, visit the Ministry of Children and Family Development website at www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/fasd and the Baby's Best Chance website, www.bestchance.gov.bc.ca.