New way to fight FASD

Through an Aboriginal Lens reaches out to First Nations youth and their families.

Family preservation support worker Courtney Fraser

Family preservation support worker Courtney Fraser

Maple Ridge’s Asante Centre is doing ground-breaking work in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, with the new program Through an Aboriginal Lens.

While centre’s main goal is to support people who suffer from the disorder, getting people to put themselves through the assessment process can also be challenging.

An  assessment is a tough and trying time for young people and their families, said Allison Pooley, program director for Through an Aboriginal Lens.

It’s not always easy for a family to accept that alcohol consumption during pregnancy may have harmed a family member.

Through An Aboriginal Lens is a way to help First Nations youth and their families get through that.

“We’ve noticed for a long time that the families coming through that program are complex and have high needs,” she said.

“They deserve more support to come through what is a very stressful process. Coming through for an assessment is anxiety producing and challenging in many different ways.”

An assessment has three components: medical, psychological and speech and language assessments. The clinicians are looking for delays that point to a FASD diagnosis.

Program manager Samaya Jardey said that support might be as simple as bringing forms to their home and filling them out in the kitchen.

“It’s going out into the community, to their place where they feel comfortable,” said Jardey.  But doing so would not be feasible without funding.

Getting more families and individuals through the process is the goal.

“So many families tell us ‘Yeah that was really hard, but I’m still glad that I did it,’ partially for the connection to services they would not be able to get otherwise, but also for an understanding of the person’s needs.”

The pilot program is expected to lead to more ways to help people.

For example, the Asante Centre has done an assessment for a person in his mid 60s. It’s the only place in B.C. that serves adult FASD clients.

“A lot of positive changes can still happen for adults. We’ve had people that have been homeless for 30 years, and get their first housing since they were 16.”

A simple diagnosis can be a game-changer for adults.

“It’s partly the connection to services, and partly being able to understand themselves, and tell people what’s going on with them.”

Because the pilot program comes out of a partnership with the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C. it is focused on aboriginal youth, but Cooley emphasized all cultures will benefit.

“This is an aboriginal-specific project because there is a need there, but FASD is not an indigenous concern,” said Cooley.

“It’s something we’re all working on and need to be aware of.

“This is not only for the youth themselves, it impacts the family, the community, society at large – everybody,” said Jardey. “That’s our future … our children.

“One of the big purposes of this level of support is helping people see that it doesn’t have to be like a life sentence,” added Cooley.

“There’s so many people with FASD who can be and are successful … that we can help other people aspire to be that as well.”

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