Georgian hosts Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder conference May 24
May 15, 2012

As part of efforts to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Georgian College will host an FASD and Justice Conference on Thursday, May 24 at the Barrie Campus.

FASD results from prenatal alcohol exposure and is a permanent brain-based disability that impairs thinking and judgment. It is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability among Canadians. Unsupported, individuals with FASD are at disproportionate risk for involvement with the law – as offenders and as victims.

“FASD is the most common developmental disability in Canada and impacts approximately 130,000 Ontarians,” says Sheila Burns, a specialist and noted advocate in the field of FASD. “Unfortunately, it’s a disability that is largely unrecognized, with little prevention and awareness.”

Ontario is the only province in Canada without a provincial strategy to address the disability. As part of a 10-month fellowship at Georgian College, Burns is hoping to remedy that. She has been conducting roundtable discussions with professionals from a diverse range of fields on how to better provide services and supports for individuals with FASD. The agenda for the conference has been shaped by those discussions.

“The overall goal of the conference is to address some of the pressing issues we face as a province – everything from changing systemic attitudes and developing new diagnostic tools, to managing the behaviours of those with FASD and making accommodations for them in the justice system,” notes Burns. “We hope to identify partnerships and potential collaborations that will positively impact future policy and professional practice.”

The conference will benefit anyone concerned with the implications of justice, criminality and disability. In particular, it will appeal to judges, crown attorneys, lawyers, police officers, disabilities workers, mental health and addictions workers, policymakers and more.

The deadline to register is May 17. Download the FASD and Justice Conference registration form.

Sheila Burns is a specialist in FASD and has been working toward the advancement of FASD awareness since 1997. She is a founding member and past chair of the FASD Ontario Network of Expertise. In 2011, Sheila was awarded the Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship from the Law Foundation of Ontario, of which this conference is a key outcome. She is working in collaboration with Georgian College to develop curriculum for two FASD-specific courses and a graduate certificate program, conduct research and draft a strategic response to FASD for Ontario.