Guest column

Why we should all care about these disorders

Column by Linda Newell
Posted 9/14/16

In looking over the national calendar, I noticed a plethora of designations for the month of September, like Better Breakfast Month, Self Improvement Month, and International Square Dancing Month, …

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Guest column

Why we should all care about these disorders

Posted

In looking over the national calendar, I noticed a plethora of designations for the month of September, like Better Breakfast Month, Self Improvement Month, and International Square Dancing Month, for example. As I'm scrolling down the list for a while, I'm thinking why am I doing this? But I kept going down into that internet rabbit hole, and the more I researched, the more I found, like two of my passionate advocate topics, International Peace Day and Suicide Prevention Month, which I've written about before. But the one that caught my eye was the little-known FASD Awareness Month (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders).

Why, and why should we all care, not just pregnant or to-be-pregnant moms? Now I've done some of this research before because of two FASD bills I sponsored in the Senate in prior sessions, both having failed on party-line votes, oddly. So, in looking back at that, I was reminded of the stark fiscal and human costs for all of us. Prenatal alcohol use is the leading cause of preventable intellectual disabilities and birth defects.

It's time we finally debunk the myth that it's OK for soon-to-be mothers to drink alcohol during pregnancy. It used to be that even some physicians would say a glass of wine every now and then or in a certain trimester wouldn't hurt the baby. Research has proven that to be false. The most current guidelines are that there is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe alcohol.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, as with autism, are a wide range of physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities that can happen with children born to a mom who drank alcohol during pregnancy. They can also show up as learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children, teens, and adults.

Children, families, and taxpayers are being burdened with the human and economic costs of prenatal substance exposure. Millions of dollars are spent every year on the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders with:

  • School and employment problems.
  • Those arrested or involved with the law. (The juvenile justice system often has a high proportion of these affected youths because it adversely affects their problem-solving and decision-making skills.)
  • Adults unable to live independently.
  • Children in foster care, failed adoptions, physical and mental health, and substance-abuse treatment

By screening children who were prenatally exposed to alcohol at the earliest possible time, an accurate diagnosis can contribute to positive long-term outcomes for children and families. Educating parents and service providers (mental health, early childhood, schools, social services, foster, adoptive and biological parents) to provide appropriate care tailored to children with FASD is critical to reducing their involvement with state systems as they reach adolescence and adulthood.

If you'd like to know more about FASD or other ways to protect children in Colorado, you can join us for the Step Up for Kids Rally at the Capitol on Sept. 26 at noon. Or you can visit illuminatecolorado.org, rockymountainchildrenslawcenter.org, or everychildmatters.org.

Pass it on.

Linda Newell is the state Senator of Senate District 26, which encompasses Littleton, Englewood, Sheridan, Columbine Valley, Bow Mar, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, west Centennial and parts of Aurora. She can be reached at (303) 866-4846 or Linda.newell.senate@gmail.com or SenLindaNewell.com.

Linda Newell

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