The Rounds: Complexities of FASD & Pain

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Blonde child holding her hurt elbow

Back in June, The Rounds in partnership with Solutions for Kids in Pain (SKIP) held a virtual event on the complexities on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and pain. The event was led by CanFASD’s Senior Research and Intervention Lead, Dr. Jacqueline Pei, and Dr. Kyle Sue.  

The event ran from June 21st to the 25th, 2021 and was presented through a Ask Me Anything (AMA) format. Drs. Pei and Sue talked about topics like what FASD is, chronic pain in FASD, FASD and stigma, medication, and mental health.  


This event was very successful! Alongside Dr. Pei and Dr. Sue there was over 2,600 attendees from all over Canada; specifically, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario with the most. Of these attendees, most of them work in the field of medicine; specifically, family, emergency, paediatrics, and general medicine.  


Below are some of the top questions that were asked throughout the event.  

If you can’t tell someone has FASD by looking at them, how do you diagnose FASD? What’s the diagnostic process?  

FASD Diagnosis involves an interdisciplinary team with specialized training and knowledge. The team will then evaluate the individual for prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), facial dysmorphology, and brain functioning (there are 10 domains of functioning that are examined). In order for an individual to be diagnosed with FASD, there must be confirmed PAE, and a minimum of three domains of brain impairment. In Canada, there are 3 diagnostics of FASD: FASD with Sentinel Facial Features, FASD without Sentinel Facial Features, and at risk for a neurodevelopmental disorder and FASD, associated with PAE.  

To learn more about FASD diagnosis, we encourage you to check out the clinic process 

Is it common for patients with FASD to be treated with medication for their mental health challenges? What are the risks and benefits? 

Yes, it is very common. A combination of non-pharmacological strategies and medication work better than either alone. Compared to the general population, medications may not have as significant an effect in the FASD population due to co-morbidities and challenges with executive functioning. However, people with mental health conditions usually do better on medications, than without.  

What can be done to support the mental health journey of individuals with FASD? 

This is a tricky question, as there are inadequate mental health supports for people with FASD throughout all parts of Canada. One of the core issues is that psychiatrists, psychologists, and generalists in Canada lack sufficient training when it comes to caring for adults with developmental disabilities. However, there may be specific mental health programs for adults, such as the Asante Centre in B.C. and Surrey Place in Toronto.

Mental health for children is a little easier to support, as there are child and mental health specialists, developmental specialists and general pediatricians that can help. While there is ongoing research geared towards understanding and helping people with FASD and mental health, seeking information regarding strengths and challenges of the person with FASD and monitoring the goals towards treatment is recommended.  

We’re thankful to the Rounds and SKIP for hosting this session about FASD and pain and bringing some much-needed attention to this area.

To learn more about FASD and pain, watch a recording of our webinar Pain as Experienced by People with FASD

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