Area organizations partnering to promote FASD Awareness Day
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
To recognize International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day on Sept. 9, the Northwestern Ontario FASD Diagnostic Clinic is producing a social media campaign. Firefly, being one of the Clinic’s partners, is serving as a platform to share this initiative. The event is also being supported by Community Living Dryden-Sioux Lookout.
Firefly has used social media to reach out to its audience, asking people to support International FASD Awareness Day.
Yvette Jones, Healthy Generations Facilitator for Community Living Dryden-Sioux Lookout, said that their annual initiative has been put on hold due to COVID-19. She added that the initiative would typically involve wearing red shoes, some activities and prizes to be won, along with a workshop to educate high school teens on the risks associated with drinking while pregnant.
“This year we will be holding a ZOOM Red Shoe Rock painting session for children and families affected by FASD. To participate, families must register with [email protected]. Bring your own shoe shaped rock, your paint, and a snack to munch on while we paint and talk about the risks associated with drinking when pregnant. Red Shoes are symbolic of no drinking for nine months if pregnant,” Jones said.
Executive Director of Community Living Dryden-Sioux Lookout, Sherry Baum, added that the rock painting night will co-sponsor the launch of a Webinar in English and Oji-Cree, which is set to be launched this month.
First celebrated in 1999, on the 9th day of the 9th month, the date symbolizes the nine months of pregnancy. According to Firefly, FASD is a lifelong disability affecting the brain and body of a person, resulting from exposure to alcohol in the womb. It is vital for the success of such affected individuals to avail special support in order to accomplish different parts of their daily life.
Rehab Clinical Coordinator for Firefly, Treena Wallace, said, “Current studies suggest that up to four per cent of individuals in Canada have FASD – that is approximately 1,451,600 people with FASD in Canada today. FASD impacts more people in Canada than Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome combined.” In order to lead change to improve prevention and diagnosis of this disease, it is essential to build community awareness around the risks surrounding alcohol use during pregnancy and support groups as resources to enable change.
“We want to promote dignity among individuals with FASD and their families. We want people who support individuals living with FASD, whether that is school staff or community partners to be FASD informed. We want to end the stigma around the use of alcohol and pregnancy,” said Wallace. According to Firefly, a small group of parents struggling to raise their children impacted by FASD laid the foundation for the development of an awareness program regarding the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in 1999. Aiming to prevent the prenatal exposure of babies to alcohol, the program has come a long way, raising awareness and working towards ending the stigma for both individuals and caregivers impacted by the disease.
The Northwestern Ontario FASD Diagnostic Clinic has partnered with Red Shoes Rock, an online international awareness campaign giving voice and support to those affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. RJ Formanek, an adult living with FASD working for others with similar life struggles, founded this Facebook support group called Flying with Broken Wings. In 2013, while starting a conversation about FASD with strangers, Formanek decided to wear red shoes to stand out, be noticed and have some fun. This group reaches out to the world through social media to share facts and real stories of real people who battle FASD daily.
According to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services of Ontario, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can often result as a gateway to several types of behavioral problems including an Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Some other potential side effects may include memory problems and struggles maintaining relationships and employment. A community educated around this issue will serve as better grounds for the wellbeing and improved development of such individuals. “Although people with FASD experience complex challenges, they also possess resilience, strengths, abilities, and offer unique and valuable contributions to society,” said Wallace.
Healthy Generations also offers ongoing support to families and children affected by FASD. Educational workshops, as well as family support are offered and can be contacted at 807-374-0255 or [email protected].
“Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the leading cause of intellectual and other lifetime disabilities. Join us! Paint Red Shoes Rock and hide them in the open in your neighborhood,” Jones concluded.