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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Starting the Conversation

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a range of problems caused by exposure of babies to alcohol when they are in their mum's tummy.

There is no cure for FASD and its effects last a lifetime.

But getting an early diagnosis, and access to treatment, can help to ensure that a person with FASD can get help with their learning and behaviour to maximise their independence and achievements.

"It is difficult to talk about FASD with parents because of the stigma. No one wants to admit that their drinking during a pregnancy may have caused problems for their child" said Julia Faulkner, Manager of Rural and Remote Health Initiatives.

"To address this challenge, the Foundation partnered with the University of Sydney to design, deliver and evaluate a community-led approach to FASD screening using local community members to start a safe conversation with mums and dads.

"The program is delivered by Aboriginal Health Workers and nurses who are trained how to engage parents in a discussion about some of the challenges their children may be experiencing, and to obtain parental consent to conduct a screening.

"In the majority of cases we can rule out FASD as a cause, but the screening process can contribute to a better understanding of what may be contributing to behavioural issues with the child such as autism, attention deficit, post-traumatic stress or another neurological condition.

"Early diagnosis is absolutely critical for children with neurodevelopment conditions. We know that early access to treatment is essential to help parents manage conditions so that the child can lead a full life.

"The work of the University of Sydney and the Foundation is already teaching us more about how to start conversation with parents about this complex issue. Ultimately, our goal is to make sure kids get the support they need for any neurodevelopment condition reducing the long-term impact on disability and hospital services". said Ms Faulker.



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