12 September 2023
Children and young people who are suspected of having Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) will benefit from dedicated clinics to diagnose the condition. The first clinic – which will be held today (Tuesday 12 September) - will be followed by further clinics throughout the year.
FASD is a neurodevelopmental condition which is caused when a person is exposed to alcohol before birth. Each person with FASD is affected differently, but often face challenges in learning and cognition, and managing emotions. FASD is also associated with over 400 known conditions which can affect any system in the body.
Only ten percent of children with FASD will have any noticeable facial differences because of the condition. These can include a thin upper lip, flat and smooth skin between the base of the nose and the top of the upper lip (philtrum) and narrower eye openings. Children with FASD can benefit from a range of support, including speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.
In the short term, the clinics will focus on children and young people who have been identified as displaying symptoms of FASD. In the medium term, all children referred for a neurodevelopmental assessment will be screened for FASD as part of a single referral pathway.
The latest advice and information materials produced by Public Health advise against any alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and encourage Islanders to speak to their midwife, GP, or health visitor.
International FASD Day is celebrated on 9 September every year and the UK also celebrates FASD Awareness Month. Both International FASD Day and FASD Awareness Month aim to raise awareness of the condition and celebrate the achievements of people with FASD.
Dr Catherine Howden, community consultant paediatrician, based at CAMHS, said: "I am pleased that we now have a diagnostic pathway for FASD. Because FASD shares many symptoms with other neurodevelopmental conditions – including ADHD and autism – it requires assessment of 10 different neurodevelopmental domains, and a co-ordinated approach from multiple health professionals".
"Providing an accurate diagnosis is the first step to providing the correct support for children and young people with FASD. This includes giving families the knowledge they need to effectively support their children".
"I also hope that by having these conversations about FASD, we can reduce some of the stigma around the condition. There is not a direct relationship between the amount of alcohol a child is exposed to before birth, and how FASD presents. We know that lots of factors such as timing and genetics also have a part to play. Jersey has a high rate of unplanned pregnancies, and public health guidance on alcohol consumption has historically been unclear.
"This means that expectant mothers may have had a drink before they knew they were pregnant, or they might have followed the guidelines to the best of their understanding. It's really important that parents don't let the stigma around this condition stand in the way of getting the right support for their children."
The National Organisation for FASD has produced a leaflet for pregnant women which is available online: https://dkhelf8ak01yp.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/National-FASD-Alcohol-Pregnancy-leaflet-trifold-WEB-1.pdf