3rd Annual FASD Workshop at UofR

Free workshop and training

 “A Lifetime of FASD: Navigating Systems, Silences and Transitions”

Dr. Michelle Stewart (Department of Justice Studies) and the FASD Centre/Regina Community Clinic are hosting a workshop focusing on the lived experience of individuals with FASD and the challenges they can face over a lifetime including during key transitions (youth to adult for example).

The morning session will be lead by Dr. Dolores Logan (FASD Centre/Regina Community Clinic) who will discuss the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol on the developing fetus (registered participants will receive certificate of completion following participation).  The afternoon will be a workshop focused on key life stages. The first session will be lead by Lisa Brownstone who is both a caregiver and retired occupational therapist; Lisa will offer her perspective including key transition periods, systems, and barriers she’s helped to navigate.  Myles Himmelreich, a well-known public speaker who is living with FASD, will then lead the next discussion; Myles will discuss his experiences and strategies in navigating systems.  Dr. Michelle Stewart and her research team will then discuss recent research conducted in partnership with The Asante Centre, and PLEA Community Services in British Columbia; this project focused on people living with FASD and the concerns they have about aging with FASD. These sessions will conclude with a short round-table discussion.

Please share with your colleagues and register today!

Eventbrite free registration: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/a-lifetime-of-fasd-navigating-systems-silences-and-transitions-tickets-24351111831

Reflections on the Updated CMAJ Guidelines for FASD Diagnosis

Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has published new guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).  The guidelines, released 15 December 2015, are accessible here.  CMAJ also released a podcast discussing the updated diagnostic criteria, which is accessible here.  As a research assistant for Dr Michelle Stewart, I was also able to attend an informative training session hosted by Lakeland Centre for FASD which provided further information about the revised Canadian guidelines of FASD diagnosis.

The previous guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD were released in 2005.  Over the past ten years, clinicians have identified gaps and inconsistencies in the diagnosis process, and the research and literature concerned with FASD has developed substantially.  As a result, multiple concerns were identified which led to the development of a steering committee, the completion of a literature review and broad consultation, and ultimately the release of revisions to the 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD.

Although there are multiple specific updates to the guidelines (please refer to the CMAJ article for a full description), I will limit my discussion to those factors which are most salient to me after reviewing the guidelines and attending the training provided by Lakeland Centre for FASD.  I believe it is worth considering, at this time, that these diagnostic criteria are the result of direct feedback from clinicians and assessment teams in addition to advances in FASD research.  The effect of maternal alcohol consumption on prenatal development is a relatively recent area of study, and the advances in our understanding of FASD and related concerns have been substantial over the past ten years.  FASD is still not fully understood, and many questions remain.  Feedback on the updated guidelines and further research will continue to add to our understanding of FASD, maternal consumption of alcohol, and relevant social structures.

The recommendations of clinicians and assessment team, and the research regarding FASD, has influenced two major changes in the updated diagnostic guidelines.  Recent research suggests that maternal consumption of alcohol is “more primary in the development of [mental health problems], so these mental health problems can now be considered primary characteristics of FASD.  As a result, affect regulation and mental health problems have been added as one of the ten areas that diagnosticians examine when considering a diagnosis of FASD.  In addition, research has shown that growth deficits, which were included in the previous diagnostic guidelines, aren’t as common in individuals with FASD and are also not specific to FASD.  As such, the criteria of growth deficits has been removed in the new diagnostic guidelines.

The diagnostic nomenclature has been updated in the new diagnostic guidelines.  Individuals can be diagnosed with FASD with Sentinel Facial Features or FASD without Sentinel Facial Features.  There is also a new designation of At Risk for Neurodevelopmental Disorder and FASD, Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (please note that this is a designation, not a diagnosis).

The new diagnostic guidelines also recognize the inherent limitations associated with diagnosing infants and adults.  Infants are too young to complete many of the measures of CNS functions, while adults often have difficulty obtaining confirmation of prenatal exposure to alcohol and may experience various obstacles to assessment.

-Alexandra Johnson (Research Assistant for Dr. Michelle Stewart)

FASD and the Criminal Justice System: Transnational Research

Patrick McGee spoke with Damien Carrick on the Law Report on RN, Radio Australia, ABC News Radio on November 10, 2015 about the treatment of offenders with FASD in the Australian court system. The episode, entitled “Indigenous Prisoners and FASD” is available from the ABC RN website and offers insight into the growing awareness about FASD in the criminal justice system in Australia. The conversation is partially based on a recent study headed by Dr. Eileen Baldry (University of New South Wales) in which she found that Indigenous Australians with disabilities are often caught in the criminal justice system due to a lack of appropriate support systems. McGee asserts that the criminal justice system is ill-prepared to handle offenders with disabilities. He acknowledges that there are more effective ways of managing this issue, but that they are at the levels of intervention and diversion programs, as well as finding ways to encourage jurisdictional cooperation between disability services and the justice system. McGee points out that this is an issue that has emerged in Canada and the United States as well, but he feels that Australia has fallen behind in terms of awareness and responses. Listen to the episode at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/indigenous-prisoners/6923270#transcript.

This issue was also recently addressed within the Canadian context at a conference in Regina, Saskatchewan on November 17, 2015. A panel comprised of Saskatchewan-based professors including Michelle Stewart, Robert Henry, and Jason Demers discussed incarceration rates in Canada. Indigenous offenders and offenders with FASD were specifically discussed, as were community-based alternative options to incarceration. International awareness of the intersection of FASD and the criminal justice system is growing; however, strategies for alternative treatments and programs are broadly being developed in response. Check out the LeaderPost article “Aboriginal incarceration up 47 per cent at Canada’s federal prisons” and see for yourself (http://www.leaderpost.com/health/aboriginal+incarceration+cent+canada+federal+prisons/11384178/story.html).

Ali McCudden December 19, 2015

HOT OFF THE PRESS! Release of Environmental Scan: FASD & The Justice System in Canada

Environmental Scan: FASD & The Justice System in Canada is a report prepared by Dr. Michelle Stewart and her research team at the University of Regina. This research is supported in part by the University of Regina and Canada FASD Research Network. The report aims to provide a comprehensive overview of FASD and justice programs across Canada, in addition to identifying all existing services for individuals with FASD including assessment, diagnostics, and programming for youth and adults.

Dr. Michelle Stewart and her research team have begun distributing the report to interested partners and organizations across Canada. This environmental scan is a working document that aims to engage with the youth and adult justice sectors to facilitate understandings of programs and practices, and is the first step in formulating a comprehensive summary of FASD and the justice system across Canada. Comments and suggestions about this report are welcomed. We are hopeful that the report will facilitate a sharing of information between organizations and increase knowledge regarding FASD in the justice system and existing services which support individuals who are affected by FASD. Please click here to access the report. You can request a copy of the report by contacting: fasd.research.project@uregina.ca or michelle.stewart@uregina.ca

-Alexandra Johnson

“Dan Dubovsky—Common Strengths of Students with FASD”


POPFASD Youtube channel is an interesting resource for those looking to learn more about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder within the area of education. The most recent video “Dan Dubovsky—Common Strengths of Students with FASD” published on October 20, 2015 is a short six minute lecture by Dan Dubovsky who has worked in the field of FASD for over 35 years. The video features Dubovsky offering insight based on his experience and expertise on common but often misrecognized (or socially unacknowledged) skills and abilities that he associates with people affected by FASD.

Dubovsky is the parent of a child living with FASD and refers to his son in the video. He speaks to his experiences both as a parent and as a therapist while offering a counter message to educators on how to encourage the success of students with FASD. Dubovsky states that throughout his work he has recognized many similar abilities and strengths amongst those living with the disorder. He speaks about various qualities, unique talents, and areas in which many of these students excel. He acknowledges that there is no essential FASD experience and that there are certainly many downsides; however, he also considers it vital to recognize the good with the bad.

What are your thoughts on the video? Share your take on it!

Ali McCudden November 3, 2015


Lack of FASD services has devastating impact on Guelph couple

Lack of FASD services has devastating impact on Guelph couple

A Guelph couple who adopted their son when he was three-weeks of age were forced to surrender their parental rights of their son in an effort to ensure their son would receive supportive services for his FASD diagnosis.  The couple and their son, who remain unnamed, lived as a family unit for fourteen years.  During this time, the adoptive parents revealed that they experienced many difficulties with their son’s violent outbursts.  After attaining a diagnosis of FASD for their son when he was a toddler, the couple felt confident that they would be able to access supportive resources for their son.  The couple was devastated to discover the lack of supportive services available to them.  They found that the only supports available to them came as a result of their son’s “autistic tendencies” and failed to address behavioural concerns stemming from the organic brain injury resulting from FASD.

Ultimately, the couple felt compelled to terminate their parental rights, thereby making their son a Crown ward.  Feeling unable to cope with the developing behaviours of their son compounded by the lack of social supports, the couple approached Children’s Aid and the recommendation to them was to follow through with terminating their parental rights to their son.  The son has been placed in foster care and will be moved into a treatment group home where he will have access to FASD services.

This case highlights the lack of accessibility to services for individuals and families affected by FASD.  Though the access to services was mediated by the intervention of the state, the process of accessing these services meant removing an adolescent from his home and from his family.  The question then remains: how do we allow for families to access services for children with FASD diagnoses while maintaining their involvement with their children?  And if the supports exist, what is their value to the families who could benefit from them if they are inaccessible outside of state intervention?  This is one instance of individuals who have been failed by the existing supports for those with FASD diagnoses, and signals a need for more accessible resources in communities across Canada.

-Alexandra Johnson

FASD and the Law: A Conversation about Current Research, Best Practices, and Ethical Considerations

Thanks to everyone who attended and made the event, FASD and the Law, a huge success! For those who missed the event here is a short synopsis.

Recent events in legal arenas in the US, UK and Canada, hold promise for new approaches to FASD in the legal system but also raise ethical questions. At the local level there are collaborations between police, courts, probation and community groups to help facilitate better justice outcomes for those living with FASD. At the national level, in 2010-2012, the Canadian Bar and American Bar Association passed resolutions on FASD. In 2013 and 2014 both Canada and the US government took up FASD through particular legislation and proposals to amend the Criminal Code. In the past year the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority in the UK has taken up FASD through criminal cases. As these moves are afoot in multiple locations, we are presented with myriad examples of FASD being taken up in the context of the law—practices that are both promising but also deeply challenging.

This session wants to bring those engaged in these practices, and for those that are interested in learning more. This session will facilitate a space for justice professionals, community workers and families to share ideas while also discussing a path forward on the difficult issues surrounding justice for those with FASD.

Click here to listen to a podcast featuring interviews with guests from the event.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights receives testimony on FASD

 Researchers and stakeholders sent in comments and offered testimony in March. For information including submissions and briefs submitted by Can FASD please CLICK HERE.

The commenting deadline has closed. Stay tuned for more information.