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The Rural and Remote Neurodiversity Screening Services aims to expand access to clinical services for children and adolescents affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other neurodevelopmental issues by increasing Fast Accessible Screening and Diagnosis. The program currently focusses on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in children and adolescents in rural NSW and we are working to expand this service to create a single screening and diagnostic tool for all major neurodevelopment disorders and expand capacity for diagnosis and treatment in rural and remote locations.

  1. Increase capacity for FASD screening and diagnosis

  2. Deliver outreach disagnostic and telehealth services in rural and remote NSW

  3. Link health, Aboriginal, justice and other services to improve early intervention and support

  4. Evaluate program outcomes

Project Manager


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person who was exposed to alcohol or drugs before birth. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink or take drugs during pregnancy. Alcohol and drugs can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she’s pregnant. All types of alcohol and non-prescription drugs are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.


To prevent FASDs, a woman should avoid alcohol and/or drugs if she is pregnant or might be pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know for up to 4 to 6 weeks.

The CICADA (Care and Intervention for Children and Adolescents affected by Drugs and Alcohol) Clinic at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) is the only specialiSed, tertiary, interdisciplinary FASD diagnostic service in NSW. Currently CICADA takes >200 referrals/year from specialists for children and adolescents (0-18 years) with prenatal alcohol exposure. Of the children presenting to CICADA, 31% come from rural and remote NSW; 47% are Indigenous; 83% live in out-of-home care; and, many have early life trauma or contact with the justice system.


FASD NSW aims to expand access to clinical services for children and adolescents affected by drug and alcohol by increasing Fast Accessible Screening and Diagnosis for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in children and adolescents throughout NSW.


The program builds on CICADA’s existing diagnostic expertise, infrastructure, educational resources, and interagency partnerships to:


  1. Increase NSW’s capacity for FASD screening/diagnosis - at SCHN and beyond;

  2. Establish a replicable hub-and-spoke model for capacity-building and sustainable community-driven screening, diagnosis and intervention in high-risk groups;

  3. Provide outreach diagnostic and telehealth services;

  4. Strategically link primary/secondary/tertiary, Aboriginal, justice, mental health, urban/rural/remote and SUPPS services to promote early diagnosis, including access to early intervention and NDIS support;

  5. Evaluate service quality, capture diagnostic data, support education and research, and increase awareness of FASD in health systems and the community.

The partner consortium participating in FASD NSW program was selected to deliver maximum return on investment. Key partners and beneficiaries include: the NSW Youth Koori Court (Indigenous youth); Rural and
Remote Medical Services (predominantly Indigenous children living in northwest NSW); Substance Use in Pregnancy and Parenting Service (babies of mothers with alcohol use disorder); Department of Community and Justice (including the Elver Trauma Treatment Service for children in out-of-home care); and NOFASD (support and advocacy for children with FASD and their families).



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