The Basics for Mental Health Professionals
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability and it's estimated that between 3-5% of babies born in Aotearoa annually will have FASD.
Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential.
Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.
FASD has low recognition and support in Aotearoa – only around 5% of those with FASD will ever receive a formal diagnosis. This is unacceptable when looking at the life outcomes associated with FASD and mental health – one study established the life expectancy at birth for people with FASD as only 34 years, with the leading cause of death being suicide.
The Canadians lead the way with research and resources in this field; their work highlights the unmet mental health needs of this large and vulnerable population group in our society. As the updated Canadian mental health toolkit (below) says: "People with FASD are capable of significant change and personal growth. It is therefore imperative that, as mental health professionals, we continue to explore how we can adapt our supports so that individuals with FASD can benefit from practices suited to their unique strengths, challenges, and neurodevelopmental needs."
Almost all staff at FASD-CAN have in-home experience of caring for family members with FASD. We and our members know that interventions and support can make an enormous difference for those with FASD – but mental health professionals will need to adapt their therapies, programmes, and interventions to achieve this success with their FASD clients. There is need for both an FASD-informed approach and a brain-based lens to the interventions offered.
See tabs below for our selections of the best global resources, as well as a few we have put together.