Foetal alcohol syndrome ‘more common than we think’

Paul Parker, of Coraki, is worried about the effect of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome on infants and students. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Paul Parker, of Coraki, is worried about the effect of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome on infants and students. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

A CORAKI man whose grandson suffers from foetal alcohol syndrome says the condition is far more widespread than people realise.

Paul Parker believes up to 10% of the child population in the Northern Rivers could have the condition, and in many cases parents may not realise their children are afflicted by it.

Develops in the womb

Foetal alcohol syndrome, or FASD, is a condition which develops in the womb if the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.

It causes neurological problems marked by learning disabilities, hyperactivity and behavioural issues, and some characteristic facial features.

Mr Parker said paediatricians had been advocating increased support to tackle FASD "for years" and GPs had become well-trained at identifying the disability.

More research needed

But he believes more research needs to be made available on the prevalence of the condition and has called for the government to "stop hiding behind the Privacy Act" in releasing accurate data.

"We've known about it for about 15 years, but we've really only starting to focus on it now," he said.

"There's a lot more kids (with FASD) than people realise.

"The government is only just starting to realise how much it will cost to look after these people as they age.

"(They need) to stop avoiding frightening the population."

Special schools

If the condition is more common than believed, Mr Parker believes it would be better to place children with FASD into a special school.

"It might be better for all students concerned," he said.

His grandson, also named Paul, at times exhibited behaviours which caused him to be suspended from school.

"Children with FASD think differently and respond differently in a way considered to be inappropriate to ordinary people," he said.

"Teachers say 95% of the time he is fine, but 5% (they) don't know how to manage."

"We need to make it easier for people to be aware of these problems and how big of a problem it is in our area."

Topics:  coraki

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