Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the term used to describe the wide range of lifelong physical and neurodevelopmental impairments that can result from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Children and adults who have FASD live with significant cognitive, health and learning difficulties.
FASD is a significant social and public health issue in Western Australia. A study from Telethon Kids Institute released in February 2018 found one in three young people in youth detention in Western Australia had FASD. Initial diagnosis remains complex, two years after ‘The Australian Guide to the diagnosis of FASD’ was released in 2016, and FASD is still not recognised as a disability, which means people who really need support are missing out.
While there is no cure, there are effective interventions and supports that can help lessen the impacts of FASD. Importantly, it is preventable. A whole of government plan to tackle FASD, which includes prevention activities, needs to be developed. Elsewhere, early recognition and early therapy will minimise the adverse outcomes so often seen with FASD. Education, Health, Child Protection and Justice workers must be equipped with the tools to effectively work with people who have FASD including the skills to determine whether a person should be assessed.
A co-ordinated, multi-faceted approach from government departments is required to address the FASD crisis in Western Australia.