Education about FASD has to be put in place

To the Editor:
This is a call to action.

One in 20 school-age children have a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, known as FASD. FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual who is prenatally exposed to alcohol.

These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications (www.fasdunited.org, 2022). FASDs are irreversible brain damage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy or if one is trying to become pregnant (www.cdc.org, 2021).

They are invisible disabilities with such stigma, not many know about the prevalence. FASDs are 1.5 times as common as autism in the United States (www.proofalliance.com, 2022). At least 70 percent of children in foster care have an FASD. (www.fasdunited.org, 2019).

Each year, $30,945 per person with an FASD is spent on costs associated with the juvenile and criminal justice system (www.fasdunited.org, 2021) and $205 billion is the estimated cost of FASD on society in the United States (www.fasdunited.org, 2021).

Accordinging to a 2018 analysis of the economic impact of FASD in the United States, the annual cost for one individual, including health care, special education, residential care, and productivity losses is $24,308 (www.fasdunited.org, 2021). Sixty percent of teens and adults with an FASD have been in the legal system (www.fasdunited.org, 2021).

These are all conservative numbers. Many with an FASD go undiagnosed, are misdiagnosed, or are never diagnosed.

Prior to COVID, 1 in 9 women had alcohol-exposed pregnancies in the United States. Today, in 2022, the numbers are 1 in 7 (www.proofalliance.org, 2022).

Eighteen percent of women of child-bearing age (ages 18 to 44) binge drink. In 2019, four percent of women overall and 8 percent of women ages 18 to 25 had an alcohol-use disorder (www.cdc.gov, 2019).

These numbers are staggering. Yet, nobody wants to talk about it.

People are scared to have discussions, because it means a woman wanted to harm her child, right? Wrong. Forty-five percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. One in three women do not find out they are pregnant until six weeks’ gestation. One in five women do not know until seven weeks. One in 400 women don’t know they are pregnant until 20 weeks.

These numbers tell the truth. Women don’t know. So, education has to be put in place, to talk to students, young women, obstetricians, pediatricians, and general practitioners about FASDs. Prevention starts with a conversation.

I am Rebecca Tillou, a Voorheesville resident, and I was diagnosed with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder at 34 years old. I look and act “normal.”

It was only after I found my birth mom in 2013 and discovered she was an alcoholic, that I went and got diagnosed. I have academic, social, and executive functioning struggles because of the alcohol my birth mom consumed. I struggle with abstract concepts, time management, and impulse control.

I have become an advocate for those affected in some way by an FASD. I have become a voice for those without a voice. Who wants to join me?

Rebecca Tillou

FASD Self Advocate

Voorheesville

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