I was incredibly proud to debate my Private Member’s Motion to recognize September 9th of each year as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day in Ontario.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is an umbrella term used to describe mental, physical, developmental, and/or behavioural issues caused when a woman consumes alcohol during her pregnancy. Whether a woman knows she is pregnant or not, the risks associated with drinking alcoholic beverages while pregnant can carry lifelong impacts for her child. FASD is one hundred percent preventable.
This motion, if passed, would establish an awareness day on the ninth day of the ninth month each year, which is symbolic of the nine months that a woman is typically pregnant before giving birth. While recognized internationally, FASD Awareness Day is not formally recognized in the province of Ontario.
This recognition would encourage more opportunities for education of FASD, more dialogue, de-stigmatization of the disorder - and hopefully prevention, as a result of increased awareness. Knowledge is a crucial piece of prevention efforts and an awareness day would help empower Ontarians with correct and helpful information to make healthy decisions. It would also serve as a tribute to individuals living with FASD and the families and caregivers that work hard care for them and advocate on their behalf. Additionally, it would recognize that these individuals and their families often face unique challenges that require perseverance and resilience.
There is much that is not understood about FASD and there is a great deal of work to be done in public awareness. For example, a mother who is pregnant with twins and consumes alcohol during her pregnancy may have one child that is affected by the disorder and one who is not. This suggests that the physiology of the fetus and perhaps the mother also plays a significant role. Also, some people think that all children with FASD can have some mild facial deformities, but in fact, only a very small percentage have this symptom. Facial deformities occur if alcohol is consumed between day 19 and 21 which is when facial features are formed.
This day has been a long time in coming and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services staff, as well as, my staff have put in a great deal of work and passion about the subject behind the scenes for years. I am hopeful that this motion might pass so that on September 9 of each year, we can of understand more about this disorder and bring attention to the work that still needs to be done in helping those affected by it.
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