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International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day – September 9, 2015

August 27, 2015—On September 9—the ninth day of the ninth month—people all over the world recognize International FASD Awareness Day as a reminder of the lifelong effects that drinking during pregnancy can have on a person. It’s also a day to celebrate those who have FASD and to highlight the supports and services that are available to them and their families.

“There is no known level of alcohol that is considered safe for a developing fetus. Drinking alcohol while pregnant is a risk factor and can affect a child’s development in a number of ways,” said Sherisse Picklyk Dear, one of two FASD diagnostic coordinators working in Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority.

FASD diagnostic coordinators work in partnership with the Manitoba FASD Centre. They screen referrals of children and youth living in the region to ensure diagnostic criteria is met. Providing support and information to families on the journey through assessment, FASD diagnostic coordinators can provide some follow-up and education post assessment to the child or youth’s circle of support. They also locally host an 8 week informational series on FASD called Building Circles of Support.

“Individuals with FASD have many strengths and gifts. The support and information that comes from an assessment goes a long way to helping kids reach their full potential,” Picklyk Dear said.

Devon Ungurain, Interlake-Eastern RHA’s other FASD diagnostic coordinators said she is often asked how FASD can still occur when the link between alcohol consumption and FASD is widely known.

“There are lots of reasons why a woman might drink during pregnancy. The reasons are complicated and can be impacted by many factors. A woman can be four weeks or more into a pregnancy before she finds out - she simply didn’t know she was pregnant! Often women hear conflicting or inaccurate information on what lifelong effects alcohol may have on the fetus, or they struggle terribly with addictions. Recognizing that each woman’s life experiences and pregnancies are different can help us understand how a child can be diagnosed with FASD,” Ungurain said.

Since 2010 the FASD Diagnostic Coordinators have connected with over 350 caregivers seeking information, education and assessment for children and youth living in the Interlake region.

Through the MB Key Worker program, Interlake-Eastern RHA offers in home intensive support to caregivers with children or youth up to age 21 who have FASD or confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure. Key workers help families understand FASD by providing education, awareness and information specific to the needs of the child or youth. The MB Key Worker program is a three year pilot based out of Selkirk.

“The beauty of the program is that we carry small caseloads allowing us to connect frequently with folks. There is nothing like this in Manitoba!” said Shannon Foster, one of two key workers.

On September 9 over the noon hour, come and meet the RHA’s FASD team and some of the FASD coalition members. They will be handing out stress relievers in the shape of brains with the message “I learn differently on them” at the following locations:

Selkirk: Interlake-Eastern RHA Corporate Office, 233A Main Street

Pine Falls: Wings of Power Resource Centre

Lac du Bonnet: Mrs. Lucci’s Resource Centre

Beausejour: Early Learning and Child Care Program (Provincial Building)

Beausejour: Health Education and Wellness Primary Health Care Centre, 31-1st Street, South
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