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

“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

“Dispensers at Yukon College, Dirty Northern pub”

“Dispensers at Yukon College, Dirty Northern pub”


By: Philippe Morin, CBC News, 29 March 2015

Accessed on: 29 March 2015

Commentary by: Sarah Cibart

A few weeks ago Whitehorse became home to a research project out of the University of Alaska Anchorage. The project, funded by the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon (FASSY), focuses on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD. A major part of the project involves pregnancy test dispensers in washrooms meant to encourage women to ensure they are not pregnant before they consume alcohol. The second piece of this project aims to provide women with education and support surrounding pregnancy and alcohol consumption. The dispenser with pregnancy tests also has a QR Code (smartphone scanner) which links to FASD resources and a survey. If the women complete the survey, they are entered to win a $15 iTunes gift card.

In this article the interviewer speaks with Jessica Fulmer, who lives with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and is a mother herself. Fulmer states that she would have found it much easier to take a pregnancy test in college had the washrooms offered an accessible, affordable, and discreet dispenser. “It is scary to learn you are pregnant”, said Fulmer, “this is one thing that will help break the stigma.”

Wendy Bradly, Director of FASSY, says the pregnancy test dispensers help normalize the process of testing for pregnancy. It is her hope that these dispensers become as normalized as condom dispensers in public washrooms. New and innovative methods of surveying ways to support women in FASD prevention are both valuable and groundbreaking.

FASD & the Law: Free Workshop – March 2015

February Update:

This will be a pre-conference event prior to 6th International Conference on FASD called “Research: Results and Relevance 2015” that is being held March 4-7 in Vancouver B.C. The pre-conference session on FASD & the Law will feature upwards of 20 short presentations. We are currently finalizing the schedule of speakers but emerging themes currently include: justice and law, corrections and incarceration, research and training, as well as family and care providers’ perspectives on justice encounters. We will have a complete list of speakers and schedule available in late January so stay tuned. This event is free and is open to the public. We do ask that you register for the event by contacting: faslaw@uw.edu Please share this event with your contacts and we hope to see you in Vancouver in the Spring!  See the preliminary schedule below – and register today! Please share with contacts and check out the facebook page by clicking here.

FASD & The Law:

Continuing the Conversation about Current Research, Best Practices & Ethical Considerations


Registration and Coffee—8:00am to 8:15am

Welcome and Opening Comments (Fia Jampolsky, Kathryn Kelly & Michelle Stewart)—8:15am to 8:30am

Session I

FASD, Mental Health & Wellness Courts—8:30am to 9:15am

·       Judge Toth (Canada), Just Do It: How to Start a FASD Court Without Resources and Actually Get Something Done

·       Suzie Kuerschner (Canada), Wellness Court & Sentencing Plans for Defendants Living with FASD

·       Kelly Rain Collins (USA), Juvenile Mental Health Court


FASD in the Courts—9:15am to 10:15am

·       Judge Jeffrey (USA), TBD

·       Judge Wartnik (USA), FASD: Perseveration and Being “Bored”

·       Frances Gordon (Canada), FASD and the Principles of Sentencing: A Turn in the Road since R v Charlie

·       Magistrate Crawford (Australia), TBD

BREAK—10:15am to 10:30am

Thinking with Families and Youth about FASD and the Law—10:30 to 11:15am

·       Dorothy Reid, Canada FASD Research Network (Canada), Don’t Forget About Us: A Family’s Perspective on FASD and the Law

·       Dr. Lori Cox (Canada), The Nogemag Healing Lodge: Working with Youth and Families with FASD

·       Kee Warner & Deb Evenson (Canada), Not The Same Old Kettle of Fish: Communicating for Comprehension


Discussion Session One: Ethical Considerations—11:15am to 12:00pm


Dr. Amy Salmon (Canada), Engaging the Criminal-Legal System in FASD Prevention: Current Debates and Implications for Reproductive Justice

Audience and Panelists Discussion Hosted by: Fia Jampolsky

·       Emerging & best practices regarding FASD in the legal system

·       Ethical issues raised in these practices and possible remedies


LUNCH—12:00pm to 1:00pm



Youth Interventions—1:00pm to 2:00pm

·       Dr. Christina Chambers (USA), Screening for FASD among Juvenile Detainees in San Diego

·       Dr. Maya Peled (Canada), Breaking Through the Barriers: Supporting Youth with FASD Who had Substance Abuse Challenges

·       Dr. Steven Youngentob (USA), Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: The Role of Chemosensory Fetal Programming in Adolescent Alcohol and Nicotine Acceptance.

·       Richard Willier (Canada), FASD and Youth Diversions

Education and Justice Outreach—2:00pm to 2:30pm
· ·       Heather Jones (Australia) Developing FASD Educational Interventions for Justice Professionals

·       Dr. Michelle Stewart (Canada) Managing Expectations: Frontline Police Perspectives and the Limits of FASD Training


BREAK—2:30pm to 2:45pm


Discussion Session Two: Prevalence—2:45pm to 3:30pm


Dr. Kaitlyn McLaughlin (Canada), TBD

Discussion Host: Kathryn Kelly

·       What is at stake in prevalence studies?

·       What are some of the practices being used to establish prevalence?

Assessment and Assistance—3:30pm to 4:00pm

·       Betty Lou Benson (Canada) TBD

·       Lisa Bunton, (Canada), Providing Services to Offenders with FASD: Challenges and Successes (pending approval)

Discussion Session Three: Looking to the Future—4:00pm to 4:30pm

Audience and Panelists Discussion Hosted by: Michelle Stewart

·       What is on the horizon in the fields of FASD & the Law?

·       What are the research needs in these fields?

*Note: this is a preliminary schedule and is subject to change. Registration required. Contact faslaw@uw.edu.

FASD: The missing diagnosis


By: Sue Gaberiel, Cheboygan Daily Tribune, 24 October 2014

Accessed on: 27 October 2014

Commentary by: Robyn Morin

This article is the fourth edition of a four part series created to provide education and strategies for some behaviours that are associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

The author starts with a simple four step procedure that a child will experience within a classroom when preparing for an assignment. A child of average functioning will be able to successfully complete all four steps. A child with FASD will complete the first step, become distracted with something in their desk and will be unsuccessful in completing the assignment.

The author emphasizes a common behaviour associated with FASD known as “confabulation.” Confabulation “is filling in with what seems logical, because you can’t remember what actually occurred.” This is much different than lying where one will lie to cover up something they did in order to not be held responsible. At times, individuals with FASD are accused of lying when in fact it is confabulation.

Throughout the article, the author tells a story of a young girl with FASD and provides examples of her daily life in regards to step by step instructions and confabulation. The point is to illustrate strategies such as requests and one step instructions. When teachers, parents or supports use one step directions, the individual can be successful in completing a task. When you continuously use a multitude of one step instructions, an individual will be able to successfully perform these one step instructions from memory thus creating success.

The author ends the article stating that no amount of alcohol is safe while pregnant and FASD is 100% preventable; “If you are female and are going to drink alcohol, do not have unprotected sex, if you have unprotected sex, do not drink alcohol.”

“Baby or booze? GN sends explicit message to expectant Nunavut moms”

CLLICK HERE TO ACCESS ARTICLE: http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674baby_or_the_bottle_gn_wants_to_starts_dialogue/

By: Sarah Rogers, NunatsiaqOnline, 24 September 2014

Accessed on: 1 October 2014

Commentry by: Robyn Morin

On September 9, 2014 the Government of Nunavut released a new ad campaign in recognition of International FASD Awareness Day (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). The ad was created to bring awareness to the direct impact of alcohol consumption on an unborn fetus. The image on the poster is a silhouette of a pregnant woman and the unborn fetus. The woman is holding a bottle to her mouth and yellow liquid is pouring through her body directly to the fetus.

The ad is said to be targeting younger pregnant women as there is a high population of young females in Nunavut. The ad is in English and Inukitut.

Since its release, the ad is eliciting mixed reactions due to the visual image on the poster. Many people, from various professional backgrounds, have commented on how the image does not provide information on support services to pregnant woman especially youth that are pregnant. Instead, critics argue, the ad places blame on women without considering other factors that contribute to maternal drinking. Proponents argue the importance of the images as they bring awareness about the impact of alcohol consumption.

The goal of the Government of Nunavut was to bring awareness to the direct effect of alcohol consumption while pregnant. The ad has proven to be effective as conversations have occurred—whether in support or against the campaign, people are talking about FASD.

What are your thoughts? Does this ad campaign bring awareness to the direct effects of alcohol consumption or does the ad place blame solely on the women who is pregnant?

CAMP UNITY: Help for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS ARTICLE: CAMP UNITY: Help for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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!