Many women who have FASD are able to benefit from tailored support on substance use problems. Audrey McFarlane, Executive Director of Lakeland Centre for FASDin Cold Lake AB recently shared strategies for working on FASD prevention with women who have FASD themselves. One of the LCFASD programs, the 2nd Floor Women’s Recovery Centre, provides residential treatment exclusively to women. She explained how programs can better support women who have FASD.
Because of the possible neuro-behavioural and physical health issues associated with FASD, working with women living with FASD may pose particular challenges for the service provider due to:
- Limited understanding of how their body works and how or why to use birth control;
- Limited understanding of how to get housing, money and to keep themselves safe;
- Physical health issues, such as diabetes, STDs, vision, hearing and dental;
- Limited ability to envision the future;
- Inability to link actions to consequences, which makes them more likely to be connected to the justice system and to have many children not in their care with multiple partners.
McFarlane says that these and other challenges mean it often takes longer to see the benefits of supports. Yet, there are a number of strategies that have proven successful.
- Take a family alcohol history and ask each woman, specifically, if she has a diagnosis of FASD. Woman will tell you if they do, but are often not even asked.
- Make suggestions in key areas where they can agree or disagree rather than using client-generated approaches.
- Prioritize building a relationship so that the woman will come back for support as needed. Reframe returning to treatment as a positive, not a negative.
- Expect to spend more time on basic life skills and necessities. She may not have connection to family or social services. This means treatment needs to be longer.
- Approaches that work best include solution-focused counselling, physical activities, positive touch, relaxation, and connections that develop a sense of belonging, like volunteering and cultural practices.
Here are a number of resources on trauma-informed and FASD-informed approaches for working with women living with FASD.
FASD Informed Approach by Mary Mueller, RN, Waterloo Region Public Health and Emergency Services
FASD Informed Practice for Community Based Programs, College of New Caledonia
Pregnancy, Alcohol, and Trauma-informed Practice, The Prevention Conversation
Trauma-Informed Practice Resource List, Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health
For more on this topic, see earlier posts: