Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Posted: Tuesday, January 07, 2003

According to the Institute of Medicine Report to the U.S. Congress, "Of all the substances of abuse, including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus." An estimated 27 million American children are at risk for abnormal psychosocial development due to the abuse of alcohol by their parents, says a report from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services. Increasing public awareness of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and its symptoms along with providing support services is the job of Frontier Community Services on K-Beach Rd.

Margaret Parsons-Williams is the FAS Coordinator and accompanied by Donna Shirnberg, CPGH speech pathologist, and Vickie Tinker, program assistant at Frontier Community Services recently demonstrated the differences between a normal and a FAS baby at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. The Baby Think it Over dolls are actually computer programmed to mimic the behavior of a normal and a FAS baby.

According to Shirnberg, Alaska and Canada are foremost in the FAS diagnostic process, but that comparative statistics for other countries with prevalent use of alcohol are not yet available.

"What we know is that if a woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy whether it's before she knows she is pregnant or after, there is often times a chance that the child will be affected," said Shirnberg. The effects of FAS have are not reversible and there is no cure, "Abstinence from alcohol is the only thing that can be done, after the birth of the child there is a diagnostic screening process available but nothing to reverse the symptoms," added Shirnberg. One out of every one hundred children is possibly affected by alcohol and symptoms include low birth weight and difficulty with developmental milestones.

Some symptoms may not be noticeable until after the child enters school where they become required to perform higher level cognitive functioning.

Frontier Community Services offers FAS diagnostic screening and alternative strategies and programs to help children affected by FAS to become as functional as possible. Additionally there is an informational library available at Frontier Community Services and programs to assist parents of FAS children. For further information or to make an appointment call Frontier Community Services at 262-6331 extension 229.

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