Did you know that some disabilities can be entirely avoidable? In today’s modern age, medical practitioners are more knowledgeable about the long- and short-term effects on our bodies when we consume certain foods and drink.

What is it?

Besides down syndrome, autism and learning disabilities, Brownies&downieS also accommodates young adults with foetal alcohol syndrome. It is fairly common knowledge that it is unhealthy (for the mother and the foetus) to drink excessively during pregnancy, and some professional opinions suggest the exclusion of any and all alcohol during the full term of a woman’s pregnancy to be the best course of action.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the umbrella term for a range of birth defects associated with drinking during pregnancy. At the extreme end of the spectrum is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a very rare condition caused by heavy or frequent alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

When a young adult with FAS tries to study or explain themself, it may take longer or slower than normal. This is because FAS can cause a range of physical and also cognitive problems. For individuals with FAS, it has been found that they may have brain damage or lower IQ’s in some way or form, stemming from the way that alcohol affected their development as a foetus.

Some of the physical problems are found to be: facial abnormalities like thin upper lips, smaller eyes, a smaller head, and are built smaller. Cognitive problems may include: poor coordination, language problems and different learning problems like poor problem-solving skills. Social anxiety and depression can also affect those with FAS. ADHD is also common for young adults with FAS.

Our Viewpoint

All things considered, life can really be tough for someone with foetal alcohol syndrome. They never chose to have a life with these difficulties, but that only means that they should make the best of what they have and to focus on finding and learning in the best way suitable for them. At Brownies&downieS, we teach our trainees not to blame their mother. What she did was wrong and it should not happen in this modern age, but it was a mistake and not a crime. In some cases, the lack of knowledge, peer pressure, or unawareness of pregnancy play major roles in this eventuality.

A big problem in South Africa regarding foetal alcohol syndrome is the lack of prevention programmes, as well as unawareness of the problem. Many women still think that it is acceptable to drink during pregnancy, and that a few glasses of alcohol a day won’t be of harm – but it will. Women should be taught about the consequences of drinking for their unborn child, should they decide to.

Alcohol is more socially accepted than any drugs. Herein lies the problem, because it’s very easy to fall into the trap of drinking. Many women who have children with FAS are embarrassed or ashamed to admit it, because their child’s condition was avoidable if they hadn’t drank during pregnancy, and can be because of stigma guilt or fear of social services. FAS may not be curable, but it is definitely preventable.

All of our young adults are unique in their own way, but they have one common trait: they work hard and learn. And most importantly, they want to work. All they want is to contribute to society and feel part of us all. We include them in all facets of the shops training and operations, and it is very evident that they are thriving and learning in a way that might not have been possible before.

Be patient with them, and include them as any person their age would be, and see the change in them. Change is up to us, so please reach out, educate and encourage the prevention of foetal alcohol syndrome.

Written by Wendy Vermeulen, Wade Schultz

Published by Wade Schultz