Yukoners mark FASD awareness day

Yukoners gathered in Shipyards Park yesterday for a barbecue in celebration of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day. There was much to celebrate.

Yukoners gathered in Shipyards Park yesterday for a barbecue in celebration of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day.

There was much to celebrate.

“For so many years, FASD was not understood or even recognized,” said Mike McCann, executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon.

“Today I think you’re starting to see a little bit of a shift in people’s understanding and awareness of it.”

FASSY hosted the barbecue not only to continue to raise awareness, but also to celebrate the successes of its clients.

“Persons that have the disability are exceptional people,” said McCann.

“They have strengths and abilities that we need to celebrate also.”

Some Yukoners living with FASD found stable housing this year thanks to a new service run by the Options for Independence Society.

The apartment complex houses up to 16 people with FASD, with staff available around the clock to help out where necessary.

“Overall, I think that everybody who lives in the building is really enjoying the balance of freedom and independence to make their lives work, and at the same time having support in those areas where they feel like they need it,” said Colette Acheson, who sits on the society’s board.

People from around the world have been coming to check out the program as a potential model for elsewhere, she said.

“There really isn’t anything like this.”

The big difference is that residents determine the supports provided to them, and not the other way around, said Acheson.

“We’ve had some success. We’ve had people happy in their homes. We have people in stable housing who were not able to achieve stable housing before, because they were unable to manage the landlord or the relationships with other tenants,” she said.

“If you move along in your life and you have chaos in your housing … never knowing from one month to the next if you’re still going to be there, if you’re going to get evicted, if you’re going to be on the street because no other landlord will take you, then you live your life on the edge of your seat, or sort of a war zone way of thinking. It makes it hard to make long-term decisions and think about your own best interest, because you’re just going crisis to crisis to crisis.”

The Department of Health and Social Services launched a campaign to mark FASD awareness day that focuses on telling Yukoners about substances that can cause birth defects, including alcohol.

The online ads explain what a teratogen is (a substance that can cause birth defects) and gives examples, like alcohol, mercury and the rubella virus.

The campaign is innovative because it does not only target pregnant women, as FASD campaigns do typically, said Jeddie Russell, supervisor for education and prevention with Alcohol and Drug Services.

“That target is not wide enough. Fetal alcohol syndrome is not about one woman drinking, it’s not about one couple being irresponsible, it’s about everybody – grandmothers, aunts, uncles, brothers – knowing that alcohol is a teratogen.

“It’s not about those women. It’s about our community’s attitude towards alcohol. And I think the attitude changes when people really have the facts. Alcohol is a teratogen. I have no blame or shame or judgement attached to that. It’s a fact.”

Shannon Ryan is the co-ordinator for Congenital Anomalies Surveillance Yukon, a branch of the Health Department that tracks birth defects and supports families with children born with them.

She said people need to know that, for some people, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“The consumption of alcohol is so normalized that we almost see it like a privilege, and we don’t want that privilege taken away from us.”

Ryan hopes that by widening the conversation to talk about different things that can cause birth defects, more people will pay attention, she said.

“I think if we focus on a broader range of things then we’re going to reach more people, more people are actually going to read the campaigns and think about the alcohol.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read