12 Common Myths about
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

by Lylee Williams

 

 

 

 

(adapted from Community Action Guide: Working Together for the Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as adapted from Ann Streissguth, Ph.D., University of Washington at website
http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/child_protection/fas/fas2c.htm)

MYTH #1: FAS means mental retardation.

FACT: Some people with FAS are mentally retarded and some are not. People with FAS can have normal and above-average intelligence. While there is injury to the brain, each affected person will have specific areas of strengths and weaknesses.

MYTH #2: Behavior problems linked to FAS and partial FAS are all the result of poor parenting.

FACT: Definitely NOT! Brain injury can lead to behavioral problems because people with brain injuries do not process information in the same way that other people do. Children with brain injuries are challenging to raise, and their parents need help and support—not criticism and judgment.

MYTH #3: Children affected by FAS will grow out of it when they grow up.

FACT: Unfortunately, they do not ‘grow out of it’. FAS lasts a lifetime, even though the symptoms and types of problems can change with age.

MYTH #4: Admitting that a child has brain injury is to give up on him/her.

FACT: We need NEVER give up on any child with any problem. Instead, we need to understand the needs of those affected by FAS and explore ways to help them.

MYTH #5: Diagnosing children affected by FAS will “brand” them for life.

FACT: A diagnosis tells you what the problem is, helps you figure out how to treat the problem, and relieves the person of having to meet unrealistic expectations.

MYTH #6: Those affected by FAS can be effectively helped by a single agency or discipline.

FACT: The needs of those affected by FAS are such that many interventions and cooperation among numerous community services are required.

MYTH #7: Those affected by FAS lack motivation when they do not act in a way that we consider responsible.

FACT: It is more likely that the explanation lies in memory problems,
the inability to solve problems effectively, or simply a state of being
overwhelmed.

MYTH #8: The problem of FAS can be solved with existing research knowledge.

FACT: Research is needed on ALL aspects of FAS—epidemiology (study of the incidence of disease), prevention, early intervention, and treatment.

MYTH #9: The problem of FAS in society will go away.

FACT: FAS is preventable, but alcohol is so much a part of our society that practical and realistic activities that address the problem of alcohol abuse must continue.

MYTH #10: Women who are birth parents of FAS-affected babies chose to drink during their pregnancy and did not care if they damaged their children.

FACT: A drinking problem is never easy to overcome. Pregnancy is an
excellent time for women with drinking problems to stop or reduce their use of alcohol. They do need respect, understanding, caring and support to accomplish this.

MYTH #11: The incidence of FAS is higher in First Nations communities.

FACT: FAS is related to the use of alcohol during pregnancy, not to race or ethnicity. Levels and cultural values related to drinking alcohol vary
across First Nations communities and thus the prevalence of FAS
varies as well.

MYTH #12: Forcing pregnant women who misuse alcohol and drugs into prisons or treatment centres will prevent their continued use.

FACT: Alcohol and drugs are available everywhere in our society, even
in supposedly ‘protected’ environments. Rather than imposing solutions
on a woman, it is important to support her as she works towards a
chosen and sustaining change for herself and her children.