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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

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September 9, 2014 - International FASD Awareness Day

Every year on September 9, communities throughout the world observe International FASD Awareness Day. Events are often held at 9:09 am, the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the year. This date and time is used to remind women not to drink during the nine months of pregnancy. The first FAS Awareness Day was held on 9/9/99. Since then, the Federal government and many State and local governments have officially recognized FASD Awareness Day.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Although the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure had been documented previously, it was not until 1973 that the term was coined and attention to prenatal alcohol exposure “caught on.”

Individuals, organizations, and communities have been active every year organizing events to promote FASD awareness and increase compassion for individuals with an FASD. If you would like more information or ideas for your September 9th programming, please visit a website that was established to promote International FASD Awareness Day: FASDay.com. Our OASAS FASD web pages also contain many downloadable FASD materials that can be used to promote your FASD education and awareness activities.

Alcohol consumption among pregnant women is still an important public health concern. A CDC report examining alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant and non-pregnant women of childbearing age (18-44 years) in the United States found that 7.6 percent of pregnant women (or 1 in 13), and 51.5 percent of non-pregnant women (or 1 in 2) reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.

Clearly, pregnant and non-pregnant women of childbearing age who misuse alcohol are an important population for education and intervention. Because no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy has been established, and alcohol is known to cause birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant should refrain from drinking any alcohol at any time during pregnancy. Women who are contemplating becoming pregnant, or are sexually active, should refrain from drinking because they could become pregnant and not know for several weeks or more. FASD is 100 percent preventable if alcohol is not consumed during pregnancy, so why take the risk?

Meet Jasmine Suarez-O’Connor, a young adult living with FASDa photo of Jasmine Suarez-O'Connor

Jasmine Suarez-O’Connor is the 20 year old daughter of Dianne and Mickey O’Connor. Dianne works part-time in the OASAS Prevention Services Bureau in Albany on a statewide FASD prevention initiative called Project CHOICES.

Jasmine was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) when she was three years old. With many supports, Jasmine graduated Scotia-Glenville High School in June 2008. Along with her mother and older sister, Jasmine was an opening plenary speaker, for the “Sharing Personal Stories” panel at the annual 2008 Building FASD State Systems national meeting. In 2009, Jasmine and her mother Dianne were featured in a Patient Education Video produced by the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ACOG) of NYS. This video has been viewed in hospitals and medical settings across the United States in over 1,000 locations.

In 2009, Jasmine was nominated for a seat on the SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence FASD Expert Panel. The role of the Expert Panel is to provide oversight, advice, and guidance to the Center based on the member’s professional expertise and/or personal experience with FASD. Jasmine brings her voice to the Expert Panel on how FASD has affected her life, finding ways to help families and caregivers living with FASD lead successful lives, and getting the word out to the college population about alcohol use and pregnancy.

Jasmine, along with another young adult with FASD and is also a member of the Expert Panel, launched the national “Self Advocates with FASD in Action” (SAFA) group. Jasmine helped to plan the first-ever conference by and for individuals with an FASD during the 2011 Building FASD State Systems meeting. This past year Jasmine was nominated by the FASD Center for Excellence to take part in the development of a Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) to be titled Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This publication will be issued by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) in early 2012.

Jasmine currently co-presents with her mother at various conferences, training workshops, and advocacy sessions across NY. In 2010, Jasmine was featured by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) about her experiences, in their series “Get to Know Me: My Life with FASD.” Learn More.