Eli Otis felt a real sense of achievement as they held a banner with Delaine Hilts leading dozens of community members from St. Andrew’s Church to the Quesnel Friendship Centre on International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day.
On Friday, Sept. 9, nine bells rang out before the group began a morning walk to raise awareness of FASD, improve prevention and diagnosis of FASD, and support individuals with FASD.
According to Health Canada, the number of people diagnosed with the lifelong disability that affects the brain and body of people exposed to alcohol in the womb is unknown because it is difficult to diagnose and often goes undetected.
Otis was 16 years old when they received the diagnosis.
“My parents didn’t understand, and back then, there wasn’t a lot of understanding about FASD, so it created a lot of abuse in the home because they just thought I was a rowdy child,” Otis said.
“For my sister, they sent her away because they couldn’t handle her.”
While Otis feels accomplished there is more discussion today on FASD and supports available, they said more still needs to be done, especially in the workplace.
The challenges with FASD are lifelong and continue into adulthood.
“In the workplace it’s not taken very lightly. We’re still quite often bashed as being lazy and not understanding, and we don’t get that extended training or help,” Otis said.
“A lot of jobs I couldn’t hold down because it affects day-to-day living, so I would like to see that go in the workplace eventually, but it’s a working progress, so making awareness like this will hopefully help that.”
Hilts works with the Quesnel Tillicum Society’s community action plan for children and early years program (CAPC) and said there are definite barriers.
Among those are stigma and misunderstandings, which can lead to those with FASD not wanting to come out and receive the help they may need.
“I feel very happy with how today went,” Hilts said of the awareness walk that concluded at the Quesnel Tillicum Society Native Friendship Centre with a breakfast.
“During the past two years with COVID, we haven’t been able to have the inside gathering, so being able to have the inside gathering and then seeing the turnout, I’m over the moon about it.”
International FASD Awareness Day was first recognized on Sept. 9, 1999, with the Government of Canada officially recognizing September as FASD Awareness Month in 2020.
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