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12 September 2023 Media Release: Addressing the complex challenges faced by children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Media Release: Addressing the complex challenges faced by children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

For immediate release
12 September 2023

International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)Awareness Day is commemorated annually on 9 September to create awareness among women and communities on the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This day also aims to shed light on the challenges and difficulties for both the mom and the child diagnosed with FASD.  The theme this year was  ‘beyond all limits’. We want to encourage individuals and the community at large to go ‘beyond all limits’ in supporting, caring for and loving those affected.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy results in a number of neurological, physical and mental conditions. ‘A child with foetal alcohol syndrome often presents with coordination difficulties, hyperactivity, poor judgement, poor impulse control, delayed gross motor development, sensory hypersensitivity and low frustration toleration,’ said Michelle Jenkins (occupational therapist, George Hospital).

Staff Nurse, Dornay Ceasar  said that these children are usually seen for assessment and then referred to the patient’s nearest clinic for further follow-up. The Inclusive Education Team may become involved to assist with school placement if indicated. Encounters with children who have been diagnosed with FASD can be extremely challenging as they tend to display extreme emotions of playfulness and happiness or extreme emotions of irritation and anger. Anne-Marie Syfers (nurse, George Hospital) said that when caring for children diagnosed with FASD and other underlying conditions associated with FASD, it is important that you are patient and interact with them on their level.

At George Hospital, through therapy both occupational and physiotherapy aims to improve fine and gross motor control through activities such as playing, building, climbing etc, and addresses the sensory sensitivity depending on the main areas of concerns that the parents of children with FASD and schools are reporting.

‘It is essential that the parents form part of the therapeutic team as these children are dependent on good carry over of exercises addressed in an OT or PT session into the home environment. Therapy unfortunately cannot “cure”; instead it helps address challenges faced and can assist the family in developing coping strategies,’ Michelle added.

It can be difficult for moms to admit that they have consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Sr Syfers and Staff Nurse Ceasar provide these moms with emotional support and refer them to the social worker or occupational therapists at George Hospital where the mom and child can undergo treatment and develop coping strategies.

Remember: No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. FASD causes permanent damage, but it is 100% preventable.

Photo caption: From left, Sr Anne-Marie Syfers and SN Dornay Ceasar in the Paediatric Ward. They go above and beyond to care for their little patients.