Fetal alcohol syndrome awareness on the rise
It takes a community to raise a child and to heal a child. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a life-long illness that not only requires physical care, but spiritual care as well. That was the message on Sunday during the 4th Annual Mini-Powwow held at Marina Park honouring Mother’s International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day.
The purpose of the powwow was to create understanding and awareness of the dangers in prenatal exposure to alcohol. It provided an opportunity to promote healing within the community through song, dance and prayer.
“I believe a healthy community is the key to wellness,” said cultural teacher Ron Kanutski. “We look to our neighbour and to our family and people around us for guidance. If we learn inappropriate things, it gets passed down. We believe it takes a community to raise a child.”
International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day is held on the ninth day of the ninth month to honour the nine months of pregnancy. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and may result in cell and brain damage, and nervous system damage; and affect physical features and internal organs.
Kelly Hicks of the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre said there has been a slight drop in the number of FASD cases, but more work needs to be done.
“I don’t know that the numbers are dropping dramatically,” Hicks said. “They are coming down.
“When we first started this program 10 years ago, not a lot of people had heard of FASD. I could go into a group and maybe one in 20 would know what it is. Now when I do information sessions, probably about three-quarters of a group knows what FASD is and what causes it.”
As more measures are taken to create awareness about FASD, more expecting mothers are receiving the proper information about the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
“The word is getting out there,” Hicks said. “People are choosing a more healthy pregnancy by abstaining from alcohol and practicing better nutrition.”
While prevention is one side of treating FASD, caring for children and adults already affected by the disorder is equally important. FASD is a lifelong disorder that cannot be reversed, but, said Kanutski, an individual can live a full life with access to proper services.
“Once someone is affected by FASD, it is about getting the proper services and support for young people and infants all the way through their childhood and into adulthood so they can have the most functional life possible,” he said.
Part of the healing process involves spiritual healing. Kanutski explained there are four realms of healing: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
“Sometimes people say we only need to focus on the physical side, but for a community to heal, we have to focus on all four of those areas,” he said. “All four realms need to be taken into consideration.”
Hicks added that FASD affects people from all races and cultural backgrounds. Many cultures turn to spirituality for healing, which has many benefits, she said.
“For those who are Aboriginal who find the connection with their culture, you can see the person growing. It really helps them feel grounded and connected,” said Hicks.
“It takes people to care for things to change,” Kanutski added.