More supports needed for people living with FASD says University of Regina researcher

News Release Release Date: September 28, 2016 9:10 a.m.

More support is needed for people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) says University of Regina researcher, Dr. Michelle Stewart. Along with her research team, Stewart studies how FASD is understood in various contexts and looks at how to better support people living with FASD.

Stewart says without proper supports in place individuals with FASD may find themselves in crisis and in emergency contact with the healthcare system or justice sector.

FASD is both stigmatized as a disability and often misunderstood, explains Stewart. Individuals may have challenges and display behaviours that can be mischaracterized; trying to understand the potential causes of troubling behaviour and then figuring out the correct set of supports can be difficult because recognizing that someone has FASD is complicated.

“One of the big challenges is that it is predominantly an invisible disability,” says Stewart. “You may not ‘look’ like you have a disability, which makes it difficult for someone who may need more time or assistance in their daily life.”

Today, FASD has grown to encompass a wide range of conditions that may include physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities. Each person with FASD experiences the disability in a different way, depending on where they fall on the spectrum, and can require different supports and interventions throughout their life.

One way that Stewart is supporting those living with FASD is by bridging the gap between policy makers and the justice system on the one hand, and people who have FASD, community agencies, and caregivers on the other.

“We can’t talk about FASD and justice without talking about the larger community issues,” says Stewart. “Jail is one of the most expensive beds we can buy in a community,” she explains, saying that investing in social supports may be a more effective and less costly long-term solution.

Some of the outreach that Stewart engages in includes hosting workshops with hundreds of frontline workers, holding events for family members and researchers, and policy analysis. Read more about her work in the University of Regina’s new research magazine, Discourse at:


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