Have your say: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Employment – Supporting Adults with FASD on the Job

For its August webinar, the team at the Centre was thrilled to welcome Dr. Deborah Rutman of Nota Bene Consulting and the School of Social Work at the University of Victoria, an expert in the area of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD.

In her presentation, Deborah showcased some of the employment-related accomplishments, challenges and support needs of adults with FASD and provided key messages for employers, service providers and community members.

As always, the full webinar recording is available below and a copy of the presentation slides can be found here. The reference sheet on Overlapping Behavioral Characteristics & Related Mental Health Diagnoses in Children that Deborah mentioned is also available for download, here. Participants posed some very thoughtful questions during the Q&A section and unfortunately we were not able to get to them all. Deborah was kind enough to respond to these questions in writing, which can be found below.

Thank you to those who attended as well as those of you that plan to view the recorded webinar. We encourage you to forward it to anyone with an interest in this topic.

Follow-up Questions & Answers

Q: Any specific resources in Victoria/Van Island for an adult individual with FASD, is a survivor of childhood abuse (and continues to be in relationships with partners who are abusive) and is also dealing with ripple effects of Residential Schools in her community….

There used to be (i.e., in 2008 or 2009 or so) some specific programs/services for adults with FASD in the Victoria/Cowichan area, including a pilot Adult Diagnostic Clinic. Currently, however, I’m not aware of any specific services/programs for adults with FASD on the Island. That said, I’d suggest contacting one of the FASD Key Workers (e.g., Mona Carlson at Island Metis Family and Community Services Society in Victoria – email: mona@metis.ca – who has been a Key Worker for many years), and see what she can suggest in terms of support. Also, since the Duncan/Cowichan community has had a long history of programs and supports for adults with FASD, I’d suggest contacting the Key Worker at the Hiiye’yu Lelum Society 
(House of Friendship): (250) 748-2242.

Q: How do adults get diagnosed so they may access more services

Q: Re: Adults with FASD: Testing for FASD is extremely expensive and in order to obtain support services they need the diagnosis, however it is difficult to obtain, any suggestions for those in the interior without access to services in larger centres?

Unfortunately, there is a paucity of diagnostic options for adults who seek assessment for FASD. Currently, the Asante Centre for FASD in Maple Ridge is the only organization in BC that offers assessment/diagnosis for adults, and this is offered mainly via a fee for service (approximately $3,000). More about Asante’s diagnostic services can be found here: http://www.asantecentre.org/Adult_Assessments.html. I also suggest talking with the clinical/assessment team at the Asante Centre, since they would likely know if there are any other mechanisms for accessing an assessment/diagnosis for an adult.

Q: What has been your experience in gaining employer buy-in for some of the specific needs of an employee such as the cues or transition reminders for an individual?

Based on what we heard and learned from our study informants who had FASD, many if not most employers have been highly supportive. The more that the employer understands about the nature of FASD (as being a brain-based, physical, invisible disability with behavioural/cognitive symptoms), the better; increased knowledge about the disability helps employers to recognize that their employees are trying very hard, and that any difficulties or issues that may arise are not due to the employee’s lack of motivation, laziness, and so forth.

Q: How much alcohol does the mother have to drink before the syndrome happens.  A glass of wine or occasional drink during pregnancy always leads to fetal alcohol syndrome? Zero tolerance?

The short answer to this question, from a scientific perspective, is: we just do not know how much alcohol needs to be consumed – and/or what additional factors such as maternal nutrition, health status, poly-substance use, experience of violence or trauma, etc., may be at play – in order to lead to FASD. Given the lack of scientific certainty, it is increasingly being recommended that the safest choice for a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant is not to drink alcohol. A discussion of this question and related issues associated with the prevalence of FASD can be found in this Fact Sheet prepared by the Canada FASD Research Network: http://www.canfasd.ca/press-centre/fasd-fact-sheet/. Another useful resource on FASD Prevention can be accessed via: https://fasdprevention.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/alcohol-and-pregnancy-infographic-feb-2012.pdf

Q: Is there a specific wage subsidy program that may be accessible to those on the spectrum?

Not that I am aware of.