September 27, 2005 for immediate release
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is among the most common developmental disabilities of our times. It is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol in utero and is a leading cause of birth defects and mental handicaps. The available data on FASD focuses largely on the challenges faced by children affected with FASD, and the challenges of parenting children with FASD. In the thirty years since FASD was first recognized, an entire generation of individuals has reached adulthood. Despite the fact that one-million Canadians over the age of 15 may have FASD, the amount of information about adolescents and adults who are affected by FASD remains a mere trickle.
UNBC graduate student Velma Abraham has been working to change this. In particular, she has been studying the perspectives of adults with FASD who go on to become parents themselves. Service providers and parents were interviewed in Prince George to explore the needs of adults who face the dual challenge of parenting and living with FASD.
“The results of the study indicate that parents with FASD require appropriate support and service in a number of areas such as transportation, child care, social benefits, and adequate housing,” says Ms Abraham. “There is a pressing need to develop these programs. Currently, most programs are not specifically developed to meet the needs of parents with FASD; doing so would require that services be individually oriented, ongoing and long-term, proactive, and empowering. Parents with FASD face barriers to service delivery in part because there is a lack of trained service providers and inadequate funding. It’s just so easy for them to fall between the cracks.”
People with FASD have limited cognitive skills, are less likely to participate in the labour force, are more likely to be the victims of violence, and are vulnerable to cycle between prisons or institutions – or at least to live in substandard conditions. Although FASD was first diagnosed in the late 1960s, it remains difficult to accurately diagnose adults who suffer from the disorder and therefore provide access to appropriate services.
The research was initiated by the Parenting Services division of Northern Health and undertaken by Ms Abraham for her master’s degree in Psychology, which was completed under the supervision of professor Cindy Hardy. Ms Abraham is a citizen of the Commonwealth of Dominica, a small country of 87,000 people in the West Indies. She came to UNBC after completing a bachelor’s degree from Malaspina University College in Nanaimo and received a bursary from the Centre for Addictions Research of BC to conduct her research..
Cindy Hardy, Psychology professor, UNBC - 250.960.5814
or Rob van Adrichem, Director of Media and Public Relations, UNBC - 250.960.5622