USD Center for Disabilities Joins Effort to Mark Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day

The Center for Disabilities at the University of South Dakota has been sharing information about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) ahead of International FASD Awareness Day, Tuesday, Sept. 9, when bells will ring in every time zone worldwide at 9:09 a.m. as a reminder of the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy and the plight of people and families who struggle with FASD.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard joined other leaders in issuing proclamations for FASD Awareness Day, so on the ninth minute of the ninth hour on the morning of the ninth day during the year’s ninth month everyone remembers that for the nine months of pregnancy, a woman should abstain from alcohol.

FASD is the leading known cause of cognitive disabilities, and the prevalence rate may be as high as 1 percent of all births, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

The Center for Disabilities operates FASD clinics in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Patient referrals come from the South Dakota Department of Social Services, the state Department of Corrections, physicians, school districts and parents.

This year, the center worked with Face It Sioux Falls, March of Dimes and Parent Connection on an awareness campaign. Staff sent letters to area churches asking that they be read to their congregations, set up booths at family planning centers in town with bowls of candy and a message that reads “This candy will last a minute, but FASD lasts a lifetime," and disseminated FASD fact cards.

FASD is a global issue, but Dr. H. Eugene Hoyme, Sanford Health chief of genetics and genomic medicine and chief academic officer, researched its local impact.

“The continuum of disabilities due to maternal drinking during pregnancy is now recognized as the most common identifiable cause of neurobehavioral problems in children,” said Hoyme. “A recent school-based study in Sioux Falls, conducted by my colleagues and me at Sanford Research, found between 2.4 and 3 percent of children enrolled in first grade to be affected with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.”

Visit Center for Disabilities for more information about fetal alcohol syndrome or download a FASD brochure.

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