National conference aims to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Sudbury is hosting a national conference on FASD (Alana Everson/CTV Northern Ontario)
SUDBURY -- A three-day national conference focusing on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is underway in Sudbury.
Organizers say 225 people from across Canada have gathered for the 10th annual Anishinabek G7 FASD conference to foster understanding, awareness and collaboration, including Valencia Poulton. She shared her story about living with FASD with the crowd.
"Sometimes I get really jumpy and jittery, at times I can't sit still, at times I can't focus, and it's quite difficult to process everything at once," said Poulton.
The national conference aims to raise awareness about FASD, which is often referred to as an invisible disability.
"FASD is the thing we don't talk about, but we are talking about it because it's time," said RJ Formanek who also lives with FASD.
The 58-year-old was diagnosed with FASD at the age of 47. He says much of his life he felt misunderstood and disconnected.
"I forget to eat because I don't feel my abdomen, I don't feel hunger, I have a very high pain threshold, which means I can injure myself and not realize how badly," said Formanek.
Organizers say it’s important to bring the entire community together.
"We wanted to bring in the education piece, justice, school strategies, family resources, all those different areas, so we brought in experts in the field as well as families who we consider the real experts as they share their stories and strategies that work for them," said Carol Anne Cheechoo, an organizer of the conference.
Lindsay Wolfson, a researcher with the Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network (CanFASD) in Toronto is one of the guest speakers at the conference.
"Our main message at the CanFASD is the importance of having a standard and unified definition as to what FASD is, which is that it's a lifelong disability for individuals who were exposed to alcohol in the womb and that each individual has their own unique strengths and challenges," said Wolfson.
Officials say another big goal of the conference is to get the message out there, that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.