On Thursday, June 9th, I had the opportunity to attend the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) conference in Moncton, New Brunswick. The conference brought together health care providers, action advocates, parents and kids all of whom have an interest in, or are directly affected by, FASD. Featuring a keynote presentation by University of Alberta researcher, Dr. Jacqueline Pei, the event was packed to overflowing, garnering more interest than it had capacity. Originally intended to serve an audience of two hundred, the organizers had so many people apply they had to turn some away.
CanFASD had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, as well as members of her staff and senior staff from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the need for a National FASD Strategy.
New suicide fact sheets have just been released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) that focus on suicide prevention among groups who may be at increased risk. But a group of individuals at extraordinarily high risk of suicide is missing from the conversation: those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
So here’s a riddle.
I am a neurological disorder that affects more children than Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome combined. My impact on the brain can present as a wide variety of symptoms including delays in cognition, behavioural outbursts and inability to regulate emotion. I am seldom diagnosed, often leaving children with no answer to the question “Why am I different from all the other kids”? I hide in the shadows and can impact almost anyone. I have no cure, and if I occur in a family from Atlantic Canada, there is almost nowhere they can turn to for help.
What am I?