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April 16th, 2016 The Current on CBC radio presented an episode on Bill C-235 proposed by Liberal MP Larry Bagnell introduced in January of this year. Bill C-235 targets those affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) that are seemingly caught in the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system in Canada. Offenders involved in the Canadian criminal justice system are often a forgotten demographic of individuals with limited access to effective FASD specific interventions and community transitional programs.
For more information on Bill C-235 or to listen to the full CBC radio program on this topic please click the above links.
In order to better support those affected by FASD in the Canadian criminal justice system Bill C-235 is proposing the following changes in legislation:
Access to assessments for individuals suspected of having FASD
Allowing assessment to inform sentencing of these offenders
Reintegration plan for community transitions
The CBC radio episode features an interview with Russ Hilsher who has FASD and is a spokesperson for Initiatives for Just communities and discusses his personal experience in the Canadian criminal justice system and the need for programs and services for individuals with FASD involved in this system. As well as discussions on the proposed Bill C-235 with Jonathan Rudin, program director of Aboriginal Legal services and chair of FASD Justice Committee and Dan Brodsky, criminal defense lawyer with the Association in the Defense of the Wrongly Convicted.
CPI, an international organization focusing on safe behaviour management, recently posted an article written by behavioural therapist Chris Arnold. Arnold Describes key issues faced by individuals with FASD and how to best support these individuals.
It is a great read -worth checking out if you are looking to learn a little bit more about what life is like for a person with FASD and how we can help them with daily struggles.
Arnold covers some key issues faced by individuals with FASD such as anxiety, the invisibility of the disability, the need for ongoing re-learning, and trouble with: structure, sequences, verbal instructions, understanding cause and effect, and understanding abstracts and generalizations. He discusses how we may misunderstand many of these issues and the implications our misunderstanding may have, as well as specific strategies to support people with FASD.
“Finding Hope,” A site from the province of BC about the struggles, successes, programs and lives of those affected by FASD, is well worth a look!
The full documentary on the Finding Hope website is a wonderfully touching and informative resource highlighting the lives of several individuals with FASD and their families interspersed with commentary from professionals in the field.
The documentary begins with a look at the lives of several families and their children who are affected by FASD. Interviews with the families and the children themselves provide great insight into what it’s like to live with FASD and raise a child with FASD. The videos contain discussion with professionals in the field regarding diagnosis, physical and neurological effects, cognitive and behavioural issues, prevention, intervention, and the importance of recognizing that the effects of FASD are due to a brain injury rather than wilful choices.
Several interventions are highlighted in the documentary:
The camp (L.I.F.E sessions) experience at Whitecrow Village is featured. The camp reinforces the concepts of structure, predictability/consistency, and respect through adapted activities for children with team leaders who have FASD themselves. These activities run concurrently with education sessions for adults. Children, families, and Whitecrow Village staff work and learn together to create a sense of community.
One family in the documentary has created a homeschool of their own, hiring teachers to work with the children. They stress the importance of short segments of learning with active breaks and a calm predictable environment.
The FASTrack program at Kennedy Trail Elementary School in Surrey BC is a program with strategies specific to FASD. The program advocates for the importance of communication between the home and school and the importance of translating to other schools the knowledge of what works in this program.
The YWCA provides programs to help women make good choices, which is essential in the prevention of FASD and the good parenting practices needed for mothers of children that are already affected
Other highlighted interventions are the ever-important dedicated teachers’ assistants, and provincial programs incorporating key workers and respite workers who help parents with coping and communication strategies.
On the finding hope website, there is also a compilation of videos on a number of FASD related topics:
- About FASD
- Assessment and Diagnosis
- Resources for Parents
- Resources for Educators
Each section contains videos, an overview, links to sites relevant to the topic, and some great downloads with resources and tips.
To our readers:
The documentary concludes with messages of hope from the families and professionals in the video.
Where do you find hope?
Are there any specific interventions or people that have given you hope?
With so much information to take in, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in research papers, news articles, and statistics and become detached from the real reason that all of this information exists in the first place: The individual people who are affected by FASD.
So for this week’s blog post, I thought I’d take things to a more personal level and post a letter that I found through the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, written by a young lady with FASD.
100 Mile House Free Press published a letter written by Shirlana Vance that she had written and read aloud for FASD day on September 9 in 100 Mile House, BC. She writes with a confident and inspirational tone about her future goals along with the struggles she has dealt with and the help she has had along the way to get to the place where she is today.
Shirlana speaks about bringing out the strengths and abilities in someone with FASD, stating that “Confidence is key most definitely, along with structure and stability”.
Click here to read Shirlana’s letter.
And, in keeping with our intervention theme, the article notes that Shirlana recently completed a youth employment services program at The Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre (CFEC) in 100 Mile House. CFEC is a non-profit society which runs numerous programs and services for families and individuals, based on the needs of the community, including a program specific to FASD which provides support, information, resources, and assistance with accessing diagnosis and assessment.
To Our Readers
We encourage you to share your stories here, too.
Do you know someone with FASD who has had a particularly positive influence in their life, like Shirlana has with her parents and CFEC?
Please feel free to share with a comment!