Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s widely quoted and has pretty much become a cliché but I can’t think of any statement so true and vitally applicable to raising a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

FASD is a diagnostic term describing a spectrum of effects to an individual whose mother drank alcohol while pregnant. As a result, the alcohol altered brain development leaving these individuals with complex neurobehavioral effects that can include a range of physical, mental, social and emotional disabilities. The sheer nature of this brain-based disorder results in an individuals’ lifelong dependence on others to act as an external support in order to safely and successfully navigate the world around them.

My husband and I have two young children (18 months apart in age) and after receiving the diagnosis of FASD we were left with the question of, “what to do next?” There didn’t seem to be a clear path to supports and services for families supporting individuals with FASD in Peel.

Even after handing over the diagnostic report to our childrens’ school, we found out that it wasn’t recognized by the school board under special needs (changes by both the Peel Public School Board and Catholic School Board are being reviewed). So at the time, I asked the school principal what can we do to change this?

We decided to search out other families supporting individuals with FASD. Turns out others were asking the same question of what can be done to create better supports for individuals with FASD and their caregivers in the Region of Peel.

A small group of caregivers and educators gathered to share experiences and brainstorm ideas. With many meetings and much planning we have arrived at the launch of this website as well as to announce our inaugural Peel Caregiver support group meeting scheduled for Tuesday, October 11.

Birth parents, grandparents, foster parents, and adoptive parents are invited to gather together to help shape this community with the vision of encouraging and equipping each other. By sharing experiences, strategies and knowledge in a supportive and collaborative environment we hope to achieve success for everyone affected by FASD.

Caregivers provide a crucial foundation of support for individuals with FASD, but we can’t do it alone. Outside supports are also vital throughout an individual’s lifetime. Other sources of support such as family members, friends, neighbours, co-workers, support workers/social workers, educators, employers, law enforcement, legal and health professionals can play a role in forming the ‘village’ that leads to a positive, healthy life for individuals with FASD. With that said, we desire to improve services and supports for individuals with FASD in the Region of Peel by advocating and collaborating with local organizations and health agencies.

Every individual with FASD is unique, so it is imperative that each voice is heard. The formation of a community of caregivers amplifies these voices in order to influence the development of better supports and services in the Region of Peel but most importantly to strengthen and reinforce caregivers who are the foundation of support for these unique individuals.