Unique tool released in Vancouver to help Canadians understand Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Children hold hands on the way to school. (YanLev / Shutterstock.com)

The YWCA Metro Vancouver has come out with a ground-breaking online resource to help educate Canadians about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

The agency has created a 26-letter "dictionary" that uses a series of definitions and videos to teach people the basics of FASD and break down stereotypes.

According to the Centres for Disease Control, FASDs are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. The CDC says the effects can include physical problems, behavioural and learning issues or a mix of all the effects.

“Many people don’t talk openly about FASD or understand it,” Wanda Pelletier, FASD key worker with Vancouver’s YWCA Crabtree Corner Community Resource Centre, told CTV News. “This has led to stigma and shame for women, families and people with FASD.”

The CDC lists some of the conditions those impacted by FASD may have as poor co-ordination, hyperactive behaviour, difficulty with attention, poor memory, learning disabilities and difficulty in school.

“It’s about changing the language around FASD and pre-natal alcohol exposure,” said Pelletier. “Many kids are misunderstood.”

Pelletier said she’s seen great success stories when kids are assessed and given proper learning tools when they’re young. She worked with a boy who had trouble with his motor skills. He struggled with using a pencil in kindergarten and was still struggling to tie his shoes in Grade 6.

“He displayed significant delays in motor skills,” said Pelletier. “But because he got the support he needed, he’s learned to play various instruments and is now looking into becoming a computer designer.”

She said the dictionary can be used by whomever wants to learn and hopes it will contribute to more success stories.

Sept. 9 was International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day. The dictionary was released to coincide with that.