Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wounded in the Womb

Wounded in the Womb

I’d like to alert my readers to an excellent series of articles published this week in the Winnipeg (Manitoba) Free Press about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Wounded in the Womb, is available for reading online at   

A wide variety of articles, research findings, photos, diagrams,  interviews and even videos about FASD can be found under the following topics in the series:

    * What is FASD?
    * Crime and FASD
    * Child and family services
    * FASD in the schools
    * Diagnosing FASD
    * Prevention and solutions
    * The Voices of FASD

I commend the Free Press editorial staff for developing this special series. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is considered a significant problem in Manitoba by many FASD advocates in the province, though they’re concerned the real number of people with the syndrome, as elsewhere in the country, is underdiagnosed, and therefore, underserved.

According to an article published in the Free Press last February, FASD experts say the commonly used estimate of a 1% prevalence rate of FASD in the province is seriously lowballing the number. They believe the danger of this guesstimate is that it’s and used to justify the paltry sum of money allocated by the government to FASD prevention and treatment.

Brenda Bennett, director of FASD Life's Journey said, "We're all just guessing."  Bennett, an advocate for adults with FASD in Canada says, "When I know the majority of people with FASD in Manitoba go unidentified and unserved, it's really heartbreaking.

“If each child were screened for FASD at birth or in elementary school, she continues, "they wouldn't be a mystery to every teacher, every foster parent, every social worker, every guidance counsellor, every judge and legal aid lawyer..."

Unfortunately, there’s no easy test like a blood test or brain scan to diagnose FASD, and according to the government, no mass scale screening for it was on the near horizon in the province. They’ll address the problems associated with FASD through education and programming, they say.

Huh? Ok, sure, you can educate the public about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy without having a body count. But come on. Without knowing who has FASD, who exactly is their so-called “programming” going to be for?  You need a target to target programs, don’t you?

Albert Chudley, a Winnipeg pediatrician, professor and FASD expert sees this as a problem, too. "For 18 years, we've been dragging our feet, collectively," said Chudley. "To say, 'We don't want to count, we just want to prevent' -- the two are very closely related.”

Young people in the province with FASD may be a long way off from getting young the treatment and programs they need. Besides difficulties in diagnosis, Chudley identifies another impediment. “FASD is also seen as an aboriginal disease so it goes under-reported among non-aboriginals.

According to the February Free Press article, “Experts such as Chudley say it's likely doctors treating the troubled children of white, middle-class parents zero in on similar cognitive problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and never think about prenatal alcohol exposure.”

Wounded in the Womb has timely, important information about FASD. Check it out. Maybe we can all get our local newspapers to do something similar?

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