Caregivers have hopes and dreams for their young people with FASD by Trish Jamieson

The month of September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness month throughout the world.  Recently in the media we have heard that up to 3,000 children are potentially born with FASD symptoms in New Zealand every year.  FASD results from the unborn child being exposed to alcohol while in utero causing permanent damage to the Central Nervous System (CNS). Currently many of these children at the severe end of the spectrum are going undiagnosed and resulting in being labelled as bad, naughty children, who can drop out of our education system. Caregivers are desperate for help and often report being misunderstood in their struggles with these children.  These children grow into adults who can live a life of being negatively influenced and often end up in trouble with the law filling beds in the prison system.

Sadly our drinking culture which has developed over the years has created this totally preventable disorder.  This is not just a woman’s responsibility but a whole community issue to address.  We can view this issue from different angles including a health promotion, educational, social perspective, or from an assessment, diagnosis and intervention perspective. As a Social Work educator who  recently completed my Masters in Health Sciences, which on focused on FASD,   my area of interest involves what makes life better for those who already have the symptoms of FASD.  How can we best support the caregivers, educators, social support people who are working with these children, young people who move through to adulthood?

A study in 2017 by Brown, Kapazi, Nowicki, Cleversey and Salahadin researched caregivers opinions on what were their hopes and dreams were for their young adults with FASD.  They group their responses into four areas: education and employment, positive relationships, support services and finally integration into the community.  The caregivers also highlighted the importance of stable environments for their young people and the importance of them feeling good about themselves and a sense of self-worth.  The caregivers believe these strengths helped their young people navigate into adulthood well and be involved in their communities in which they live.

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