During Spring/Summer 2013 and 2014, Dr. Michelle Stewart and her research assistant Krystal Glowatski conducted approximately 100 interviews with justice professionals and community organizations from across Saskatchewan. The research focused on the ways in which these frontline workers and practitioners understand FASD, where these understandings emerge from and the impacts of these understandings. The research is currently presented in scholarly journals, presentations and workshops. Findings from 2013 research included:
- Although the research team was warned that police officers would have little understanding about FASD, research indicated otherwise.
- All but one of the 34 police interviewees were able to offer a basic definition of FASD, and every officer was able to describe at least some behavioural, cognitive, or physical effects of the spectrum disorder.
- Officers were able to describe specific effects such as challenges with impulse control, an inability to connect cause and consequence, as well as facial features.
- Officers also had an understanding of how these effects can result in secondary outcomes (such as higher rates of contact with the criminal justice system).
- The majority of officers understood FASD as a lifelong disorder and offered strategies for working with such clients.
- Research indicated that police wanted to add to their base of knowledge and were specific about the types of material and training that would be helpful.
- Police were clear that their first priority was safety and that FASD could only be a concern after safety was assured. That said, police were interested in receiving information on how to effectively work with clients that have FASD, as well as gaining a better understanding of what a client with FASD goes through.
- One interviewee shared, “basically giving us a guideline of dos and don’ts. You know, is there something that sets them off; you know, how do you treat them? Do you treat [them] at the age they are, or the age of comprehension?” It is clear from statements such as this that officers want to better understand how to work with clients that have a cognitive disability.
Preliminary findings from the 2014 data collection will be available by Spring 2015. Executive Summary of comprehensive findings will be available in Fall 2015.
The findings from the 2013 data collection informed the “FASD at the Frontline” event that was held at the University of Regina in Spring 2014 that brought together over 200 frontline workers, policy makers and researchers to discuss FASD in the province. To review the Final Report or Policy Recommendations please return to the project homepage and click the link to the documents.
This research is supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant and support from the University of Regina. Thanks to all that have supported this research including those that participated in interviews.