Policy Action Paper: Toward a Standard Definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Canada

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Language is a powerful tool which has been used to celebrate people, but also alienate populations of people. Individuals with disabilities have been faced with discrimination and stereotypes that separate them from the rest of society, including individuals with FASD. Using language that highlights the strengths and abilities of the individual, as opposed to only focusing on the challenges they face, allows society to change its perspective on FASD, and remove perceived limitations placed on individuals with FASD.

CanFASD has created a common definition of FASD to be used by Canadian governments, service agencies, and researchers. The standard definition aims to alleviate stigma and improve understanding of FASD, create consistent messaging, and change the societal perspective of FASD toward a strengths-based, whole-body approach.

CanFASD recommends the following definition when writing FASD policy or addressing services to individuals with FASD:

“Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability. Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.”

 Read the full paper here to learn more about the importance of language and how we crafted our definition.

Authors: Kelly Harding, Katherine Flannigan, Audrey McFarlane

2 Comments on “Policy Action Paper: Toward a Standard Definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Canada”

  1. I love this definition and the reasoning behind it in the paper. We will be adopting it in anything we write for the agency concerning FASD. Thank you

  2. I think they should change the name to reflect the persons challenged, not the soyrce of the problem. It has a stigma

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