Ireland ranks third globally for children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are one of the major causes of preventable developmental delay. And yet sadly, according to recent figures from the World Health Organization, approximately 600 babies are born every year in Ireland with the disorder.
In other words, close to two babies are born every single day in this country with FASD, meaning, globally, we rank third out of 187 countries, just behind South Africa and Croatia.
It is also estimated that up to 40,000 people with FASD are currently living in Ireland, however, as there is currently no national register of children with FASDs, these figures are hard to verify. But according to the Irish Medical Journal, up to 81 percent of Irish women report drinking alcohol during the periconceptional period or early – or later – pregnancy.
Not enough recognition of the harmful effects of alcohol
In January of this year, a new advocacy organisation to support children, young adults, and families living with FASD across Ireland was established in Clare, by parent Tristan Casson-Rennie.
Both FASD Ireland and another organisation working to raise awareness of the condition, ÉNDpae, are adamant that not enough is being done for people affected by the syndrome.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, ÉNDpae’s David Gerry explains there is simply not enough recognition that alcohol is unsafe in pregnancy, despite it being known for more than 50 years that alcohol is toxic to a fetus.
As for indicators when it comes to FASD, Gerry reveals they can range anywhere fromto ADHD. Other tell-tale signs can be poor coordination, bad memory, problems with school work and subjects (in particular around maths), and also, commonly, learning disabilities.
Organisational skills is another area where children born with FASD can struggle.
“Their baseline for anxiety is hugely increased,” says FASD advocate Michele Savage, pointing to a report carried out by US academic Ann Streissguth in 1996 which found that when children with FASD reached the age of 12, 94 percent of the surveyed cohort had mental health issues. Some 80 percent of those surveyed could not get or retain a job.