Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder campaign launches at LCBO

THUNDER BAY – No amount of alcohol is safe for women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. That was the message delivered on Friday afternoon, as the NorWest Community Health Centre’s FASD campaign launches at LCBO, reminding women and those around them that alcohol and babies in the womb don’t mix.

Maureen Parkes, the FASD co-ordinator at the NorWest Community Health Centre, said it’s important to get the message out year after year, an attempt to lessen the frequency of the disorder, that can leave newborns with a host of developmental and behavioural issues that follow them throughout their lives.

“It’s about making sure people get the message: no alcohol during pregnancy and no alcohol if you’re planning on getting pregnant,” Parkes said.

“It’s safest for the baby. Nobody knows how much alcohol is safe, so that’s why we say absolutely no alcohol during pregnancy. We want the best outcome for baby.”

Parkes said she’s not sure just how prevalent a problem FASD is in Ontario’s northwest, but it stands to reason with higher rates of alcohol use, more women expecting babies are probably indulging when they shouldn’t.

“If you look at the average, or the prevalence rate in Canada, we could easily have a minimum of 11,000 people in Thunder Bay with FASD,” she said.

It’s estimated about two to five per cent of all babies born in Canada are now affected by FASD, according to information provided by the health centre.

At the low end of the scale, that would mean 4,600 in Thunder Bay alone.

Phil Aune, district manager for the LCBO in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario, said they’ve been taking part in the awareness campaign for the past six years.

“It’s very important to use because it’s part of our social responsibility platform,” Aune said. (Read more…)

Walk raising awareness for FASD

This Saturday, Sept. 7 a walk raising awareness for FASD is helping get the conversation started.

It’s being held at Gillies Lake Conservation Area from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for FASD Awareness Day. People are asked to wear red to promote the visibility of people living with FASD.

The walk is hosted by the FASD Awareness Cochrane-Timmins (FACT) Coalition and Porcupine Health Unit. There will be a free barbecue and refreshments, walk around the lake, guest speakers, and kids’ activities.

When Amanda Mollins Koene doesn’t understand a setting, her dad is there for support.

Mollins Koene has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and refers to her dad as her external brain.

For her, FASD makes it difficult to make decisions. Social settings are also hard.

“So I have an external brain, which is I go to my dad and he helps me out with that. But FASD has made it so that I’m always different from somebody else and it’s made school hard because, it’s like the saying if you judge a fish and a monkey on their way to climb a tree, then the fish lives its whole life thinking it’s stupid. That sort of thing. It’s really impacted my life by making simple tasks a lot harder and it’s just made me a lot more obstacles that I have to overcome,” she said.

Some of the obstacles, she said, are not understanding sarcasm, and being sensitive to high volumes of noise and light. She’s overwhelmed when there are a lot of things happening at once.

She’s learned how to deal with the obstacles.

Headphones help for the sound, and if she doesn’t know if someone is joking or being sarcastic, she’ll ask.

“Again, my dad is my external brain so if I don’t understand a setting or I if I don’t understand something, I can always go to him because he’s always there to support me. And so is my mom, my mom’s there to support me and they’re both my external brains,” said Mollins Koene.

At school, she said in the past two years there has been more help.

“And the school is adapting to the way I learn because I’m very visual and hands on, so I need to feel stuff and see stuff to understand it,” she said. (Read more…)

Surgeon General Releases Advisory on Marijuana’s Damaging Effects on the Developing Brain

Today, Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams, issued an advisory emphasizing the importance of protecting youth and pregnant women from marijuana’s damaging effects on the developing brain.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana, binds to receptors in the brain, producing euphoria and a variety of potentially harmful effects, including intoxication and memory and motor impairments. Newer strains of marijuana have also shown to be increasingly more potent, leading to other risks like anxiety, agitation, paranoia and psychosis.

“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, especially for young people and pregnant women,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This historic Surgeon General’s advisory is focused on the risks marijuana poses for these populations, which have been well-established by scientific evidence. As indicated by President Trump’s generous donation of his salary to support this advisory, the Trump Administration is committed to fighting substance abuse of all kinds, and that means continuing research, education, and prevention efforts around the risks of marijuana use.”

Pregnant women use marijuana more than any other illicit drugs. It is also commonly used by adolescents. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s recently released 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data showed that marijuana continues to be the most widely used illicit drug and that further, frequent marijuana use, in both youths (12-17 years old) and young adults, appears to be associated with risks for opioid use, heavy alcohol use and major depressive episodes. In 2017 alone, approximately 9.2 million youth aged 12 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past month and 29% more young adults aged 18 to 25 started using the substance.

“There is a false perception that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs. I want to be very clear – no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe,” said Surgeon General Adams. (Read more…)

Contact: HHS Press Office

Red Shoes Rock and raise awareness for FASD

Red Shoes Rock for FASD!

September 9 marks International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness day.

On Saturday, a “Red Shoes Rock Banner” celebration hosted by Maryann Post of the FASD Advocacy Support Group to commemorate the placement of the banner (a first for Belleville) to promote awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was held at the small parkette beside the banner location on the Front Street bridge at West Moira Street.

Belleville city councillors Bill Sandison, Garnet Thompson and Sean Kelly were in attendance along with a dozen supporters of the cause.

“To all those involved in the preparation of today’s activities we say thanks, and, in particular to Maryanne Post who, on behalf of the Advocacy Support Group is truly an ambassador within our community on behalf of all unborn children who are placed at risk when pregnant women consume alcohol,” Sandison said on behalf of Mayor Mitch Panciuk and council.

Post made a deputation at the Aug. 12 council meeting and council “wholeheartedly supported recognizing the 9th day of the 9th month as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day here in Belleville as part of the International Day to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. (Read more…)

Government of Canada announces funding to help create awareness for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Funding for FASD Awareness

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability in Canada. It affects the brain and body of people prenatally exposed to alcohol. People living with FASD can face life-long mental, physical, behavioural and learning disabilities. They also can experience some degree of challenge related to motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, emotional regulation and social skills. Recognizing that FASD is a serious public health issue, the Government of Canada is committed to providing support to Canadians to address and prevent this disorder.

Today, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced nearly $1 million in funding over four years to support the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ) project FASD: Talking about it to better act (website available in French only). This funding will increase FASD awareness.

In an effort to help address stigma associated with FASD throughout the province of Quebec, ASPQ will develop and implement a bilingual awareness campaign to share messaging on FASD prevention and the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. To help inform the campaign, ASPQ will use literature reviews and population surveys to identify the province’s current knowledge and understanding of FASD and related stigma, social pressures, alcohol consumption by women, and marketing strategies that the alcohol industry uses to target women. (More info…)

Local agency offering new support for families impacted by FASD

The Sarnia Journal tells the story of Michelle Lariviere who adopted 4 children with FASD, and the support for families impacted by FASD offered by a local agency.

Michelle Lariviere says she’d do it all over again — raise four children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – despite the heartache.

“People ask me, would we do things differently. No, we wouldn’t,” she says, speaking as well for husband Paul.

The Larivieres adopted six children, four with varying physical, emotional and cognitive challenges caused by their biological mothers drinking alcohol during pregnancy. No amount of alcohol use during pregnancy is safe.

“You walk through so many dark days but there is light,” said Lariviere. “I feel badly when I see them struggling.

“For me, each child we have is so sweet, so loving, so caring, but they have everything going against them.”

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) effects 4% of Canada’s population, or 1.4 million people.

No two people with FASD have the same challenges and only 10% have obvious facial indicators, such as small eyes, a thin upper lip and smooth skin below the nose.

More often the disorder is identified because of troubled brain function that impacts academic achievement, motor skills, language, memory, thinking, and reasoning.

The Larivieres didn’t set out to adopt children with the disorder.

They adopted their first child while living in Sarnia. Their oldest does not have it.

“Then we moved to Alberta and wanted to adopt again,” she said. “My husband is part native, so we contacted First Nations.” Their second child does not have FASD.

When the biological mother of their second child gave birth, the baby was addicted to cocaine.

“The thinking at the time was that it is best to keep siblings together, so they asked if we’d take her,” Lariviere explained. “She never slept and her speech was delayed.”

That child was diagnosed with FASD at age 3.

After their third adoption, the couple took training for advanced foster care so they were equipped to handle kids with high needs. (Read more…)

A pediatrician’s advice on teaching kids to be organized — at any age

Here is a Washington Post interview with Damon Korb about his advice on teaching kids to be organized.

Despite well-planned family trips, weeks of camp, play dates and child-care arrangements, summer is built upon the comforts of gentle chaos.

But now it is time to refocus, invest in routine and better develop the organizational thinking we need to face the school year with a plan, geared for whatever we may define as success.

Damon Korb, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and author of “Raising an Organized Child: 5 Steps to Boost Independence, Ease Frustration, and Promote Confidence,” wants to help parents and children take a more organized approach to the new school year.

Q: How did you discover the need for organized thinking in family life?

A: I’ve been a developmental-behavioral pediatrician for 20 years, and I see a wide range of kids — kids with autism, kids with ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), learning difficulties, behavior problems — and the complaints that the parents came forward with were always related to executive dysfunctions. “Why can’t my child get ready in the morning? How come my child will do their homework but forget to turn it in? Why does my child struggle making friends? How come my child always argues with me?” My intent was to help make raising an organized child clear and accessible for families so that we could help teach these executive functions from a young age.

Q: How do you narrow all of that down into a five-step process?

A: There are themes that apply across ages, and you just apply them differently:

1. Be consistent. Parents need to be consistent, they need to teach consistency. They need to have the same routines consistently.

2. Introduce order. Kids need to have a sense that there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to everything. A project isn’t done until it’s finished.

3. (Read more…)

Ontario Adding More Mental Health and Addictions Services for Indigenous Communities

KENORA – Ontario is increasing the availability of mental health supports by making specific investments for Indigenous communities. This new funding will help children and youth, adults, and families from Indigenous communities around the province get the care and services they need closer to home.

Today, Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, announced up to $5 million in funding for new and expanded Indigenous mental health and addictions services, including support for continued community-led responses to social crisis. The investment will support mental health training, development and support for frontline workers, including youth-focused outreach workers who provide culturally appropriate support.

“It’s important to be responsive to the diverse needs of Indigenous communities through programs and services that are designed by Indigenous peoples and delivered in a culturally appropriate way,” said Minister Smith. “I’m proud to be working with Indigenous partners to put these new supports in place to make sure help is there when people need it.”

This funding is part of the additional $174 million the government is providing this year to address critical gaps in services across Ontario and support patients and families living with mental health and addictions challenges. To ensure mental health and addictions service providers have stable, long-term funding, the government will be making this additional funding available every year.

“Our government is making mental health and addictions services a priority and taking a cross-government approach to solving community mental health and addictions challenges,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This additional funding for Indigenous communities will help support more culturally appropriate frontline services and address some of the critical gaps in the system. Investments like these are part of our long-term plan to build a modern and integrated public health care system that is focused on local needs, the patient experience and better-connected care.” (Read More…)

Canadian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Database Demonstrates International Leadership in FASD Research

A decade ago, Chief Scientific Officer of Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN) Dr. James Reynolds remembers considering how groundbreaking it would be to have a Canadian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) database – one that could capture the many unanswered questions surrounding the disability.

Dr. Sterling Clarren—former Scientific Director of the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD)— initially came up with the idea and consulted with Dr. Reynolds and fellow researcher Dr. Jocelynn Cook.

By 2010 Dr.’s Clarren and Cook had managed to secure some funding to start the project. In 2015 Kids Brain Health Network began funding the project as part of a larger FASD research program, and the database took off. Today, the National FASD Database has over 2,000 entries from 28 FASD diagnostic clinics spanning seven provinces and territories.

The project is now being led by Dr. Cook and CanFASD, and continues to be supported by KBHN and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and CanFASD. It’s the only comprehensive FASD database in the world and has received international attention, with other countries including Australia and New Zealand looking to Canada as they work towards creating a similar database of their own.

“The idea was to have a national database that would actually allow us to describe FASD in a quantitative way that nobody could argue with,” explains Dr. Reynolds “People would say, ‘well, we don’t really know what challenges these kids have, and we don’t really know what their comorbidities are.’ Well, now we know, with evidence from a very substantial sampling.”

FASD is a brain-based disability as a result of prenatal exposure to alcohol and is estimated to affect at least three per cent of the Canadian population. The process of receiving a diagnosis requires an assessment from a multidisciplinary team, who follow Canada’s current diagnostic guidelines for FASD which requires assessing 10 different brain domains—including those responsible for memory, hyperactivity, and motor skills. In order to receive a diagnosis, three domains must be deemed significantly impaired. (Read more…)

FASDay: A Bell Concordance or a minute of reflection

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day is just under a month away. Here are some ideas and planning suggestions from FASworld and the Red Shoes Rock team on how to plan a Bell Concordance or ideas for a minute of reflection. These can be group activities or a reflection you undertake on your own if your community is not hosting an event near you.

The FASD Bell Concordance

What is the Bell Concordance?

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Concordance: The fact of agreeing or being concordant; agreement, harmony…. An agreeable or satisfactory blending of musical sounds or notes; harmony.)

The Bell Concordance is relatively easy to organize, and many have been held to celebrate International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day. This can be done inside or outside a church, with ringing church bells or carillons, in a school, with children ringing tiny bells, in a park, ringing wind chimes or using a cell phone.

From FASworld:

“On September 9, 1999, bells around the world marked the “magic minute” at 9:09 a.m., and we named this ringing of bells, “The FASD Bell Concordance.” It was so successful that other organizations have picked up this term and copied it!

We (Bonnie Buxton, Teresa Kellerman, and Brian Philcox) came up with the bell idea as there is a purity about bells that reminds us of the innocence of children. As well, bells are historically associated with warnings, alarms, marking important moments, and simply pealing for the joy of connecting with the community. FASDay is all of these things.

On FASDay 2000, even more bells and other percussion instruments were played – ranging from the first mission bell in New Zealand to the historic 56 bell carillon in Cape Town, South Africa, to tiny bells rung by school children, and wind chimes and rain sticks played by native Canadians.”

(Read more…)