Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

September is FASD awareness month - #RedShoesRockNWT


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe the impacts on the brain and body of an individual who was exposed to alcohol before birth.  It is the leading known cause of developmental disability in Canada. Current studies suggest that up to 4% of individuals in Canada are living with FASD, which is approximately 1.5 million Canadians (2019).

FASD is a lifelong, brain-based disability. It presents differently in each person, due to the wide variation of alcohol effects on brain development. Each individual living with FASD is unique, and has areas of both strengths and challenges.  Individuals living with FASD may experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and may need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential.

Individuals living with FASD are resilient and have much to offer. The brain is always growing and changing. Although FASD is a spectrum, research shows us that early and appropriate supports can make a positive impact and improve outcomes for those with this disability.

Supports and services can help individuals with FASD manage their challenges. These supports can be offered by family, friends, and the community.  An individual with FASD may also require specialized education programs, supported independent living environments and peer/community mentor support to participate in community activities.  When unsupported, individuals with FASD are faced with especially high rates of mental health and substance use difficulties.

Support for families affected by FASD is important to ensure they can balance the support needs of the individual with FASD with a healthy, positive lifestyle.   Families may benefit from specialized training, funding initiatives, and respite and support groups.

Any woman of childbearing age who uses alcohol is at risk of having a child with FASD. It is safest to not drink if you are planning to become or are pregnant.

However, prevention of FASD is much more than telling people who are pregnant or who may become pregnant to avoid drinking. Research tells us that women do not intentionally seek to harm their unborn children. Some women may be unaware of their pregnancy when drinking heavily. Some women have addictions and mental health challenges and find quitting extremely difficult despite being pregnant. Some women have abusive partners who pressure them to drink while pregnant. Preventing FASD requires work from everyone in a community, not just the pregnant person.

The Importance of Supports in Individuals with F.A.S.D.

The Importance of a Diagnosis in Individuals with F.A.S.D.

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For more information on FASD supports and services that are available within the NWT please visit:

Adult FASD Diagnostic Clinic (NTHSSA)

The Adult FASD Diagnostic Clinic is designed to diagnose and support adults across the Northwest Territories who had prenatal exposure to alcohol.


Youth FASD Diagnostic Clinic (NTHSSA)

The Youth FASD Diagnostic Clinic is designed to diagnose and support youth, and support their families and communities across the Northwest Territories who had prenatal exposure to alcohol.


Inclusion NWT

Inclusion NWT provides lifelong support for individuals with disabilities and their families through a range of services.


Foster Family Coalition of the NWT—4Y Program

Foster Family Coalition of the NWT-4Y Program supports children and youth with FASD in many life skills.


Rehabilitation Services

All NWT residents regardless of where they live can self-refer themselves or their child to Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Audiology, or Speech Language Pathology services.


NWT Well Child Visits

A series of nine visits are offered to children between the ages of 0-5 years and their families. These visits are an opportunity for families to ask their health care provider questions regarding health and developmental concerns.

NWT Prenatal Visits

Prenatal visits are an opportunity for a pregnant client to engage one-on-one with a health care provider, to ask questions, and get connected with supportive resources.

Need help?

If you are planning to get pregnant and want to know more about the risks of drinking alcohol, talk to a doctor or nurse in your community.

There are a range of supports available for people with addictions or their families or friends. Start with the Community Counselling Program in your community.

For more information on FASD, please visit: