26 February 2015 | General Interest
A new resource package has been launched to help educators to identify, understand and work effectively with students living with FASD across the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The new information and resource guide — Understanding and addressing the needs of children and young people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) — was developed by the Kimberly Success Zone (KSZ) and produced in partnership with the WA Department of Education, Catholic Education Office of Western Australia and Aboriginal Independent Schools.
While designed for the Kimberley region, the materials are relevant for early years workers, primary and secondary school teachers, Aboriginal educators, and broader school communities throughout Australia.
The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders are a group of preventable, lifelong that may result from alcohol use in pregnancy, and can cause low IQ, delays in development, and problems with learning, academic achievement, behaviour, motor function, speech and language and memory. It is also characterised by abnormal facial features and poor growth, before or after birth.
Reports suggest that high-risk drinking during pregnancy is common in some remote Australian communities, such as the Kimberly region and the Northern Territory, where there are pockets of patterns of heavy drinking, making FASD more prevalent.
Secondary disabilities for people living with FASD are life-long, and range from mental health problems to interrupted education and a high prevalence of contact with the criminal justice system.
The new resource package focuses on educators and communities working collaboratively and holistically, using a strengths-based approach, to improve educational and life outcomes for children and young people living with FASD.
The guide provides educators and school communities with comprehensive knowledge and understanding of FASD, in order to support them to best meet the complex needs of children and young people living with FASD.
The resource package includes:
- a DVD — the story of Tristan, a Kimberley boy living with FASD
- a 40-page resource for teachers and school communities
- two short videos highlighting positive interventions for students with FASD.
Research has shown early diagnosis and intervention of children living with FASD is a central factor in their development, education and long-term life outcomes. A holistic network of professional, educational and social support can significantly improve the quality of life and long-term outcomes for children and young people living with FADS.
In January the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health published the Lililwan study — a research project led by Aboriginal leaders from the Fitzroy Valley communities, The George Institute for Global Health and The University of Sydney — providing Australia’s first comprehensive data on the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in remote communities.
The study involved research in 45 remote communities across the Fitzroy Valley using internationally-recognised criteria, following a rigorous process that included a detailed questionnaire about the pregnancy and early childhood and a comprehensive health and development assessment by a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians.
Speaking after the study’s publication, chief investigator and senior author Professor Elizabeth Elliott of The University of Sydney said: “These tragic results confirm the urgent need for effective, national programs to prevent alcohol use in pregnancy, raise community awareness, and provide treatment and support for children and families living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Australia.”
To learn more about the processes and results of the Lililwan study read the publication announcement from the George Institute.