It is often an invisible condition that manifests in behavioural and/or cognitive disabilities.
Its victims are over-represented in the criminal justice system devastating communities and costing Canada at least $20 to $25 million per year.
In Saskatchewan last year at least 150 children and probably closer to 750 were born with it according to experts who believe it is 95 per cent under-diagnosed.
The horrible truth, though, is it is 100 per cent preventable.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) describes a continuum of birth defects and brain injuries that are directly attributable to alcohol consumption during pregnancy. And, although it does not discriminate, it is most prevalent among people struggling with poverty and particularly in First Nations communities.
On Monday, health and community organizations across the province and country hosted open houses, balloon liftoffs, church bell ringing, walks, luncheons, pancake breakFASDs, culture camps, poster competitions, information booths, barbecues and other events to recognize International FASD Day.
In Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Anishinabek Nation, Union of Ontario Indians, hosted its 5th Annual Honouring Mothers Mini Pow-wow.
“It’s that time of year again when our children and youth go back to school,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. “Unfortunately, too many of our kids will have difficulty functioning in school due to learning disabilities and other challenges caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.”
Although no specific events were held in the Yorkton area, Mindy Bob, FASD/maternal child health coordinator for the Yorkton Tribal Council (YTC), said FASD awareness and prevention are ongoing priorities for local First Nations.
In addition to formal educational workshops and Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program sessions targeting potentially at-risk young mothers, Mindy said each of the six First Nations under the YTC umbrella has half-a-dozen highly visible parent-members who work one-on-one with pregnant women and children who have been exposed to prenatal alcohol exposure.
Despite awareness campaigns over the last several years, there is still a lot of conflicting information regarding the safety of maternal alcohol consumption. Because the full extent of FASD is still not completely understood, however, the expert consensus is that no amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can be guaranteed to be safe.
The first International FASD Day was celebrated at 9:09 a.m. on September 9, 1999. The choice of the ninth day of the ninth month is symbolic of the nine months of pregnancy.