(From left) Program Manager Karl Merritt, Occupational Therapist Rachel Quong, Program Co-facilitator Robbie Seale, and Occupational Therapy Assistant Leia Bullick.
It is an often-invisible condition that affects about 4% of the population.
That makes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) two and one-half times more common than Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
FASD covers a wide range of physical, mental, behavioural and/or learning disabilities that can occur in children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
“There’s a lot of awareness, research and support around Autism. But even though FASD is more prevalent, it lacks the same community support, so it’s very challenging,” says Robbie Seale, an adoptive parent of four children with FASD.
Seale, who has spent hundreds of hours educating parents, teachers, caregivers and others about FASD, is part of a four-member team that is poised to launch CASA’s revamped Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Treatment, Resources, and Community Supports (FASTRACS) Program in October.
The revised FASTRACS Program reflects CASA’s commitment to family-centred care, including the adoption of best clinical practices and always putting children and families first.
Designed around weekly group sessions held over a six-week period, FASTRACS aims to offer education and peer support to parents and caregivers of children aged three to 12 who have a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of FASD, as well as co-occurring mental health issues.
“We’ll run two FASTRACS groups at a time, so there will be a morning group and an evening group. We’ll start with the first session in October, which will run for six weeks, and then we’ll start a second one after the Christmas holidays,” says Occupational Therapy Assistant Leia Bullick, who will screen referrals to the program.
“It’s a model of care where we really want to support caregivers to support their children, who have some complex challenges but also lots of strengths. We want to build on the caregivers’ strengths and increase their confidence and competence in meeting their own children’s needs,” says FASTRACS Program Manager and Registered Psychologist Karl Merritt.
The sessions, involving groups of roughly eight parents or caregivers, will focus on FASD education as well as specific issues such as daily routines, structure, praise and differential attention, effective communication, and sensitive discipline. Topics will be tailored to suit each group’s priorities.
“We’re equipping parents with skills that are evidence-informed, and the evidence is based on FASD research but also behavioural science, so we’ll be melding the two and seeing what works best,” says Occupational Therapist Rachel Quong, another member of the FASTRACS team.