CAMP UNITY: Help for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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By: Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor, 21 July 2014

Accessed on: 25 July 2014

Commentary by: Krystal Glowatski

While the discussions around prevention are more popular than ever, one initiative is focusing on intervention. In Brantford, ON Camp Unity is being offered for the fourth summer. The camp takes in youth ages six to 18 who live with cognitive disabilities such as FASD. The overall goal of the camp is to fill the gap in learning caused by the summer break.

Campers do not have to be diagnosed to participate in the camp, although camp director Nicole Schween states that approximately half of the campers are diagnosed, while many display other problematic symptoms associated to FASD such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavioural issues.

The camp features lessons in an informal manner such that campers don’t necessarily realize they are “learning.” Many life skills are taught such as how to use technology, cooking, gardening, arts and crafts, and physical activities. From personal discussions with CBO workers in the world of FASD, it sounds like the campers strengths are being identified, rather than their weaknesses – an effective strategy that has been recommended time and again.

Additionally, the camp feature signs such as caution tape and stop signs, providing clear direction to campers. There is also a room where campers can go to calm down. While this space isn’t described in detail, to be effective with a child living with FASD, such a room should be minimal in stimuli.

While prevention is an important aspect in the approach to FASD, there is no way to 100% prevent FASD in today’s society. Initiatives like this are extremely important in helping those who do have FASD. The event hosted by Dr. Michelle Stewart that was held in Regina, SK in April 2014 focused on how to work with those who have FASD. We will soon be releasing the final report from the workshop titled “FASD at the Frontline: Dialogue and Strategies for New Outcomes,” which will feature many recommendations brought forth by our presenters and participants at this event. If you work at the frontline or know someone living with FASD, stay tuned for an informational and useful final report coming soon!

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