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New Education Video Boosts Awareness, Understanding of FASD

Posted on September 15, 2020

Johnstown, PA (Sept. 14, 2020) – On the ninth day of the ninth month in 1999 the first Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day was held. Since 2016, an entire month is now dedicated to increasing the understanding that ANY alcohol at ANY time during pregnancy can cause a host of symptoms that can stay with a baby for their entire life.

During the month of September, Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program along with The Learning Lamp will launch a new FASD web-based video education tool that helps pregnant women have a better understanding of the dangers to baby if they drink while pregnant.

“We want women to know that FASD is a disorder that is 100% preventable—this is one aspect of their pregnancy that they can control,” explained Kate Porter, Prevention Program Manager at Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program. “The Learning Lamp’s prevention team came up with a plan for a brief but impactful, user-friendly video presentation last year with the goal of reaching even more women, and we’re thrilled to finally be able to get the video into the hands of expectant moms and young women through a network of partners county-wide.”

Each year, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) affects over 40,000 babies and includes over 120 different symptoms. FASD can often be difficult to diagnose as it affects many different areas including coordination, attention span, behavior, and learning. FAS and FASD children can also show impairments in hearing, speech, and language which in turn affect their ability to be successful in the classroom.

“Almost 90% of all FASD cases involve speech impairment. These children also struggle in other areas that make it difficult for them to function within both a school and home setting,” said Speech Language Pathologist Kayla Boslet. “Children with poor verbal communication skills often suffer social-emotional problems as well as behavior control. These difficulties could be lessened or avoided if alcohol were not present during pregnancy.”

The 9-minute video defines FAS and FASD and shows week by week the growth and development of a fetus and how and when alcohol can cause damage. The emphasis is put on the fact that baby’s brain is developing throughout the entire pregnancy and alcohol use at any point can interfere with normal brain development. Brain damage from fetal exposure to alcohol cannot be reversed. An FAS baby grows to be a child, teenager, and adult with a wide range of struggles.

The FAS/FASD video, which can be accessed via a link shared by email, text or on hand-held mobile device on-site at a partner provider, will be available to agencies that provide support services to pregnant and new moms such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, Maternal Addiction Resource Center (MARC), Beginnings, Inc. and the ELECT Teen Parenting Program, as well as obstetric offices in Cambria County.

“Early intervention is KEY,” Boslet added. “To have an experienced team of professionals working with FASD children helps them be as functional and successful as possible. We work together to teach them strategies to compensate for the areas where they struggle and work with their strengths to help them be the best they can be in everyday life.”

While educating the expectant mom is a priority, reaching teens and young women of child bearing age to prevent FASD is also a goal. The most recent PA Youth Survey once again confirmed that alcohol is the most common substance used by teens. Because alcohol is often a factor in engaging in unprotected sex, one in seven young women nationwide will become a mom before age 20, and 82% of pregnancies are unplanned. If a young woman doesn’t know she is pregnant, she may continue to drink for weeks or months before seeing a doctor. During that time, irreversible damage may already be done.

Last school year, The Learning Lamp piloted an FASD education lesson in local high school health classes. “The knowledge gained was significant,” said Marlene Singer, Prevention Specialist at The Learning Lamp. “Before the class, many kids didn’t think that alcohol was a big factor or even know that FASD was a thing. They understand the risk of drug use for a baby, but many didn’t view alcohol as a drug. The high school boys were just as interested in the information as the girls. They understand how a woman becomes pregnant, but don’t understand how growth and development of that baby can be compromised if the mother drinks. This information gets them thinking well before they are ready to be parents.”

Funded through the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, with a matching grant from Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to purchase four iPads, the FASD video education modules are free to any school or organization that works with young women and new or expectant mothers in Cambria County. The Learning Lamp is also available to tailor programming for use in general educational settings. For more information, email lstofko@thelearninglamp.org or call 814-262-0732 ext. 249.

The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. In 2019, The Learning Lamp served 31,329 youth/adults from 53 public school districts and 78 other schools and organizations in 19 Pennsylvania counties.

 Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.

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