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Kerri Cater and Kristine Gyuk work with an incredibly interesting group of children. You may not know a lot about these children—few people do—but these children live with one of the leading neurodevelopmental disabilities in Canada, affecting 4% of the Canadian population. That’s more people than Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Tourette’s Syndrome combined.

Through their work in the Quinte Children’s Treatment Centre, Kerri and Kristine support children living with the little-known, but quite prevalent, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

FASD is a lifelong brain-based physical disability with no cure, and few effective treatments. It is the most underdiagnosed disorder in Canada, mostly because of the large stigma attached to it as it stems from alcohol consumption during pregnancy. But FASD is not a low-income, uneducated, or alcoholic issue—some of the worst effects can happen before a woman even knows she is expecting.

Kerri and Kristine support hundreds of families across Hastings, Prince Edward, and Northumberland Counties.

“The most effective treatment is society understanding and changing our expectations of independence, schooling, and how these families are supported,” said Kerri. “The goal for these kiddos isn’t independence; it’s interdependence throughout their lifetime. A lot of the time, once we get their supports set up for them, they see success. But then often these supports are taken away. You can compare it to a child who needs a wheelchair… that’s what they need to be successful… we don’t take the wheelchair away.”

People with FASD are often loving, friendly, outgoing, storytellers. They’re great with animals and younger children and they love to help. Their struggles come from inadequacies in memory and comprehension. They’re very social but they don’t always understand social interactions. They may be hyperactive, have slow speech development, and they often don’t understand consequences. They have great potential for success as their IQ levels can be high, as long as they have support to achieve that success.

The month of September is National FASD Awareness Month with Sept 9th being FASD Awareness Day. This is celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month to celebrate going alcohol-free for all nine months of pregnancy. The national awareness symbol is a red Converse shoe, which started when RJ, who is a person living with FASD, wore red shoes to speak at an international event. Red shoes symbolize the strengths and uniqueness of this community. 

#FASDMonth2023 #RedShoesRock #UnitingStrengths