A Message about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Most everyone knows not to drink and drive, and that even small amounts of alcohol can be risky… but do we really understand that drinking small amounts of alcohol during the pregnancy can be harmful for our growing baby? Even in those early weeks before the pregnancy is confirmed.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. Each person with FASD has both strengths and challenges and needs special supports to help them succeed with many parts of their daily lives.

What is FASD Awareness Day?

September 9th was chosen as International FASD Awareness Day in 1999 as it represents the 9 months of pregnancy. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about the risks of life-long effects associated with alcohol use during pregnancy; to improve supports and services, assessment, and prevention efforts.

Many people, including some healthcare providers, don’t fully understand the risks and the impact of both light and heavy drinking during pregnancy. Throughout the month of September, events are held across the globe in acknowledgement of the unique and often misunderstood presentation associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

CanFASD ToolKit
What Agencies can do?
September 9th, 2020

How We Help

These masks (see right) are being provided to all support group leaders, FASD workers, some stakeholders and champions to help raise awareness and connect people to FASD resources while remaining safe during community events.

The FASD Family and Caregiver Support Group Project is doing its part to help raise awareness of available family and caregiver support and about how families can access their local FASD Workers.

We’ve created a video montage with both French and English contributions from provincial support group leaders and participants as well as our provincial FASD workers.

We also invite you to continue sharing any news and events that are happening in September in acknowledgement of FASD Month to be posted on this website.

Please send to: Malou Gabert @ m.gabert@healthnexus.ca

Provincial FASD worker list
FASD Support Group Project


Communities across the province are working hard to raise awareness, offer support and contribute to prevention efforts throughout the month of September.

See the full calendar


FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is a lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb. Each person with FASD has both strengths and challenges and will need special supports to help them succeed with many different parts of their daily lives.

standard definition of FASD in Canada was released in 2019. CanFASD recommends that researchers, policy makers, and service providers use this definition when talking about FASD.

FASD is a spectrum disorder, so it affects people in different ways. This means that each person with FASD will have their own unique strengths and challenges.

Individuals with FASD are known for having a number of different strengths, including being friendly, likeable, affectionate, determined, hard-working, forgiving, non-judgemental and caring. They also may experience challenges with learning, memory, attention, language, social skills, motor skills, reasoning and judgement, behaviour, and/or academic achievement and they will need specialized supports to help them succeed in these areas.

In everyday life, these challenges may look like:

  • Being impulsive
  • Not understanding consequences
  • Being unfocused and easily distracted
  • Difficulties keeping up with classroom learning
  • Challenges handling money
  • Challenges learning how to tell time
  • Forgetting how to do something they’ve done before
  • Having trouble staying organized and planning ahead

Each individual will experience different challenges, and their challenges may differ depending on where they are in their life. The signs and symptoms of FASD can overlap with a number of different developmental disorders, which can make diagnosing FASD very difficult.

Early recognition and diagnosis are key to getting effective supports to improve outcomes for individuals with FASD.

FASD is preventable if alcohol is avoided during pregnancy. However, FASD prevention is very complicated. There are a number of reasons someone may drink alcohol during pregnancy, including being unaware they are pregnant, having substance use challenges, experiencing abuse or trauma, and not knowing the impact alcohol can have on pregnancy. In order to prevent FASD, we have to consider all the factors that influence alcohol consumption and provide support for people to overcome these barriers to healthy pregnancies.

When we say “FASD is 100% preventable” we are oversimplifying an extremely complex issue. This statement has the potential to negatively impact prevention efforts by creating stigma that pregnant people who use substances have to overcome. When we talk about FASD prevention we have to be very cautious and use language that doesn’t promote stigma or harm.

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