Support for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

Find out what supports are available to help people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

What kinds of support can help people with FASD?

FASD is a life-long condition. However, with appropriate interventions and support, people with FASD can be successful in many areas of their lives.

It’s most helpful to intervene as early as possible and get a diagnosis. This can improve:

  • self-esteem
  • self-awareness
  • daily functioning like cooking and hygiene
  • adaptability like learning how to cope with new situations

Programs and supports are available for people diagnosed with FASD, including:

  • physicians and pediatricians
  • speech and language pathologists
  • occupational therapists
  • psychologists and psychiatrists
  • physiotherapists
  • social workers
  • educators
  • training for parents and caregivers

Physicians and pediatricians

Physicians and pediatricians can refer someone to a specialist or they can provide a diagnosis. They will:

  • recommend appropriate ways to address health care issues
  • arrange for medications that are appropriate for the diagnosis and its symptoms, such as:
    • anxiety
    • attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) 

Speech and language pathologists

Speech and language pathologists help people develop their verbal and social communication abilities. They can help people:

  • speak more clearly
  • use words appropriately in phrases or sentences
  • improve speech and language delays and weaknesses
  • develop communications skills, such as waiting for the right time to speak

Some people who are affected by FASD may seem to speak well. Others may have problems:

  • speaking clearly
  • finding words to use in sentences
  • understanding what’s being said to them

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists help teach daily life skills to people with FASD. This helps improve their ability to perform everyday activities.

Depending on the person’s abilities and weaknesses, the therapist can help them:

  • work on motor skills, such as working with:
    • their hands or fingers
    • strength, balance and coordination
  • develop skills to look after themselves (self-care)
  • develop memory, organizational and coping strategies
  • improve their social and emotional abilities, including how to:
    • self-calm (or calm down)  
    • increase attention and focus
    • give people appropriate space
  • adapt to sensory sensitivities, such as being overly sensitive to clothing tags or loud sounds

Psychologists and psychiatrists

Psychologists and psychiatrists treat the emotional, social and psychological challenges that people face. They can help someone with FASD understand how and why they think, feel and behave the way they do.

They will help individuals develop:

  • social skills
  • self-awareness
  • self-confidence
  • coping mechanisms, such as breathing exercises

They also address problems with mental health, such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • behavioural issues

Physiotherapists

Physiotherapists help individuals to develop and maintain physical movements, including:

  • balance
  • strength
  • coordination

Social workers

Social workers work with the family or individuals to help understand the impact of FASD on the family. Social workers can provide counselling and help families:

  • access financial assistance
  • connect with community resources

Financial support

Families or individuals can contact the following websites or offices to get information on financial assistance.

Educators

At school, parents and staff can develop an individual education plan (IEP) to help support and structure a child’s learning. The plan will identify the areas in the school curriculum and environment that can be changed or adapted. These changes aim to help a child living with FASD succeed academically.

Parents, families and caregivers

FASD can be a challenging issue for parents, family members and caregivers, and they need support as well. Training and community-based programs are available to help them understand more about:

  • FASD itself
  • strategies to best support someone living with FASD
  • how to help someone living with FASD care for themselves

Additional support

If you know someone with FASD, offer your support by learning more about the condition. Seek help and advice from other families living with FASD or from local support groups. That way, you can be prepared for the potential challenges ahead and help the person with FASD reach their full potential.

The following provinces, territories and communities have services available for families and individuals living with disabilities.

British Columbia

Alberta

Saskatchewan

Manitoba

Ontario

Quebec

Newfoundland and Labrador

Yukon

First Nations and Inuit

The federal government delivers FASD community-based programming to support First Nations and Inuit communities to:

  • raise awareness
  • help families access early intervention supports and services 

Addiction prevention and treatment programming is also available.

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