Filmmakers Reveal Myths Behind Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder That Prevent Treatment and Diagnosis

Filmmakers Reveal Myths Behind Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder That Prevent Treatment and Diagnosis

FASD – or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – is a hugely misunderstood issue that filmmakers and the team behind Voice in a Million, Jo and Robert Garofalo, address in their documentary, “FASD The Hidden Disability”: A Documentary Film, which is released today, Thursday 9th September.

The documentary tackles some of the myths surrounding FASD, including ‘Its ok to have 1 or 2 drinks in pregnancy’, ‘You can tell if someone has FASD because of the way they look’ and ‘People with FASD just behave badly’. In fact, in the UK, chief medical officers have said, since 2016, that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink in pregnancy with some research showing that just one drink of alcohol can affect fetal behaviour in the womb. Often associated with distinctive facial features, less than 10% of people living with FASD will actually have different facial features and rather than their behaviour being something that they can simply overcome, FASD instead makes cognitive processing, emotional regulation and impulse control harder for people living with the issue.

While there is some awareness of FASD across the media and wider society, a clear understanding and straightforward path to diagnosis is still some way off in the UK, which is held to be 20 years behind Canada and the US in dealing with FASD. This documentary features interviews with professionals, parents and individuals living with FASD.

The documentary strips back the layers of misunderstandings about drinking during pregnancy and, rather than dictate terms to pregnant women, the film sets out the truths behind the disorder and highlights that FASD can occur with one drink.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has made clear their intention to record the amount of alcohol on a child’s records is to support the diagnosis and future support of a child with FASD as it is extremely difficult to receive diagnosis without proof of consumption of alcohol in the UK. FASD is a lifelong debilitating condition where the child can suffer from physical, cognitive, emotional and social effects, including being unable to live independently as an adult.  Many of those who suffer with FASD are wrongly diagnosed with autism, which means that getting the right treatment for them is almost impossible. The average age of death of someone with FASD is 34 years old and this can be attributed to issues around diagnosis, intervention and sup

In the documentary, viewers will meet and hear the stories of Sharon, who has parented 5 children with FASD, Lici, an 11-year-old adopted child and their struggle for a diagnosis, and Jan Griffin, birth mum and son Rossi as they tell their story, among others.

The documentary also features Dr Raja Mukherjee, a consultant psychiatrist and internationally acclaimed expert in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorders and clinic lead at the National Clinic for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) which is the only clinic in the UK specializing in assessing and treating children and adults with FASD.

Jo Garofalo, Producer

of ‘FASD -The Hidden Disability”: A Documentary Film’ said, “This documentary is, in many ways, a landmark for FASD but we need to make as many people as aware of FASD and the documentary as possible if it is to make the difference that’s so badly needed for people with FASD. Driven by the stories of children, parents, professionals affected by the disorder, we’ve set out to shine a light on the impact of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the life-long impact it can have on the unborn child. It is one thing to make decisions based on assumptions – which are wrong – but our documentary offers the facts that may change hearts and minds. We support NICE’s intention to record the amount of alcohol taken during pregnancy on a child’s record as – for us – this is not about controlling the mother, but protecting and supporting the child. Through making this documentary, we are starting a conversation that needs to be had.”

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