Trainee Series: Exploring the Transition to Adulthood for Adults with FASD

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Written by Lauren Gnat, member of the 2023 CanFASD Trainee Program

How My FASD Research Journey Began

After graduating with my undergraduate degree in psychology at Queen’s University, I knew I wanted to learn more about the major factors (macro influences) that can influence people’s lived experiences. So, I enrolled in a master’s in community psychology. This was a research program with a holistic approach to promoting social justice and well-being, focusing on the community, environment and larger factors affecting people’s daily lives. My past experiences working with individuals with developmental disabilities, and my supervisor, Dr. Melody Morton-Ninomiya, inspired me to get into the field of FASD research.

My passion for doing FASD-informed research (i.e., understanding the experiences of individuals with FASD and their support systems) has driven me to get involved with CanFASD. From the beginning of my research journey, my goal has been to understand the unique and diverse range of capabilities and needs of those impacted by FASD. By being a part of CanFASD, I hope to contribute to their mission of raising awareness, promoting research, and advocating for better support systems for individuals with FASD and their loved ones.

Research Focus

At the beginning of my research process, I had the opportunity to consult with a subject matter expert, Lisa Taylor. As a regional coordinator with the New Brunswick FASD Centre for Excellence, Lisa holds a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. Our conversations made it clear that there needs to be more information about the strengths and capabilities of individuals with FASD during their transition to adulthood.

Existing research focuses on deficits rather than recognizing adults’ unique skills and capabilities. This limits our understanding of what it means to have FASD and makes it challenging to develop resources that are strengths oriented. Furthermore, when individuals with FASD reach adulthood, they face a severe lack of available services, which makes it difficult for them to find and access resources to help them achieve their goals.

Therefore, my goal for my research is to understand how adults with FASD and their caregivers describe the transition to adulthood for individuals with FASD. By exploring their experiences and perspectives, I aim to identify the supports that can benefit adults with FASD during this phase of their lives.

Research Design

For my research study, I will be interviewing adults with FASD and people who support adults with FASD (e.g., caregivers, social workers, and romantic partners). By doing so, I hope to gain insights into their perspectives about transitioning from childhood to adulthood for adults with FASD.

Before doing the interviews, I will pilot the interview guide with a few adults with FASD and support people. This will help me get feedback on the pace, questions, and accessibility of the interview. After adjusting based on the pilot participants’ feedback, I will start recruiting and collecting stories from participants.

After all the interviews are done, I will analyze their stories and identify the main themes. To accomplish this, I will use a method called thematic analysis, which involves coding and categorizing the data while searching for patterns and recurring ideas. This will help me uncover common themes in their stories and get a full understanding of their experiences.

Knowledge Mobilization

My hope is this work will help better understand the unique experiences and needs of adults with FASD so we can adjust the support and services they need to succeed. I will publish the results in academic journals, and share the findings with various stakeholders using different media platforms. I hope to reach stakeholders, including adults with FASD, caregivers, support workers, professionals, and governments, so I will also connect and collaborate with key stakeholders to identify the best way of sharing the findings with them. By sharing these findings, we can inform future interventions, enhance existing services, and promote patient-centred care.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with…

  • Any further questions you might have about my research.
  • If you are interested in getting involved in the study either as a participant or helping with the research process.
  • If you have any insights or experiences that you want to share with me.
  • If you are interested in hearing the results of the project.
  • For any other reason (I am always happy to chat!).

You can reach me through my email,

Lauren Gnat PictureLauren Gnat is a master’s student in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is passionate about disability justice, self-determination, and humanistic approaches to research. For her thesis, she will investigate the transition to adulthood for adults with FASD to understand what factors enable them to reach their best potential.

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