Issue Paper: Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Experiences of Stigma

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Individuals with FASD face a great deal of stigma because of their diagnosis, their perceived abilities, and society’s preconceived ideas of their character. The stereotypes and discrimination experienced by individuals with FASD is both external (i.e., in society) and internal (i.e., within the individual). Our newly released issue paper focuses on the ways individuals with FASD experience stigma, the implications of these stereotypical attitudes, and recommendations on reducing stigma.

 Stigma, the Individual, and the Family

  • Language is powerful tool that can contribute to stigma and lead to unfounded stereotypes and perceptions of individuals with FASD
  • These attitudes can also affect the caregiver(s), siblings, and support systems of the individual

 Stigma and Health and Social Services

  • Health care and social service providers often misdiagnose or fail to provide a diagnosis of FASD because of the stigma around the disability
  • A diagnosis can help to increase access to supports and services, but also has the potential to manifest further stigma by the public

Stigma and the Media

  • The media often portrays individuals with FASD with a negative attitude, implying that each person with the disability has the same behaviours
  • The media has a powerful influence on the public, and contributes heavily to perpetuating stigma

Take-home Message

Stigma can affect not only individuals with FASD, but their families and support network as well, and impact access to necessary supports. It is crucial to improve public perception and messaging around FASD, in order to reduce negative stereotypes and create positive outcomes for these individuals.

For more information, please refer to the full paper here.

Authors: Kirsten Morrison, Kelly Harding, Lindsay Wolfson

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