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The Next FASD Community of Practice Event

FASD and Educational Strategies
with Mary Cunningham

November 20th 4-6pm
Waterloo Region District School Board (Main Office) 51 Ardelt Avenue, Kitchener.
  • Learn to recognize students with FASD or potential FASD from a neurobehavioural perspective and understand the reasons for the educationally difficult behaviours caused by Pre-natal Exposure to Alcohol (PAE).
  • Learn about promising, new brain-based intervention and support strategies now starting to produce school success for students with FASD; and why it is essential to make personal “paradigm shifts” in order to support all students with FASD, diagnosed or suspected.
  • Review the best resources and strategies available to implement the personal and system-wide changes necessary for implementing success for students who have or may have FASD.

RSVP to Karen Huber at or 519-741-1121 ext. 2246

Mary Cunningham, B.Ed. P.H.Ec. has worked with parents, educators and other direct service professionals as a FASD educator and supporter since 2003 when she retired from a 30-year career as an Ontario secondary school teacher, department head, educational consultant, curriculum developer, and textbook author. (Parenting in Canada, 2003) Mary met FASD “head on” in 1998 in her 25th year of teaching when she realized that she was parenting a child with FASD. Parenting a young person with FASD changed her professional practice and underscores her current education and support efforts around success for students with FASD and the welfare of people with FASD in the justice system. She is published on both of these topics and has presented widely on FASD provincially, nationally and internationally. Mary is a member of the Waterloo Region FASD Action Group and the FASD Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE). She is the current Lead of the FASD ONE Education Action Group (EAG).

Sleep and FASD

Why is sleep important?  

Sleep is vital to human life. While we are sleeping:

  • muscles, bones, and skin are repairing themselves
  • the  immune system is strengthening itself
  • the brain is sorting through the input it received during the day, discarding what it doesn’t need, and solidifying what it does need

How much sleep do we need in a day?

0-3 Years:         16-20 hours in 1-4 hour periods
3-6 Years:         10-11 hours
6-12 Years:       10-11 hours; daytime sleepiness is rare
13-19 Years:      8-9 hours; daytime sleepiness is common

A common myth is that if children have a lot of energy, they must be getting enough sleep. In fact, hyperactivity or “being wired” can be a red flag that your child is not getting enough sleep, and that their body is compensating for being over-tired.

FASD and sleep

Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder have permanent changes to structures in their brain, and this can have an impact on their sleep patterns.  One preliminary study showed that up to 90% of children with FASD may have a sleep disorder. Please talk with your physician for a referral to a Sleep Centre if you believe your child had a sleep disorder.

Signs that your child may have a sleep problem

  • apnea (snoring, pauses in breathing, or gasping for breath during sleep)
  • difficulty falling asleep at night
  • frequent waking in the night
  • complaints of leg pain or restlessness in the night
  • night terrors
  • sleepwalking/sleep talking
  • behaviour problems, hyperactivity, problems with attention and/or memory, mood swings
  • difficulty staying awake during the day

Web Resources:

For a printable tip sheet click here.

FASD Coordination Services at the Developmental Services Resource Centre
In Winter 2018, The Developmental Services Resource Centre was provided funding through the Special Needs Strategy to hire a full time FASD Coordinator. The purpose of the position is to provide support to families living with FASD (diagnosed or suspected). Coordination services include FASD education for families and service providers, system navigation and brief service.  In addition, the Coordinator will be responsible for building capacity within the community so the disability is better understood.

Referrals can be made directly to the coordinator via phone, email or website inquiries.

Karen Huber can be reached at 519-741-1121 ext. 2246  or

In addition referrals can be made through the Region's FASD website at


FASD and Sexual Behaviour


Without proper support, we know that individuals with FASD can face many life adversities. One of the most common of these challenges is inappropriate sexual behaviour (ISB).

It is important to note that individuals with FASD may be involved in ISB as either a victim or a perpetrator.

ISB can include many different problematic behaviours such as:

  • inappropriate sexual advances
  • sexual touching
  • promiscuous or dangerous sexual behaviour
  • prostitution
  • coercion
  • masturbation in inappropriate settings
  • voyeurism
  • use of sexual remarks
  • lack of physical boundary space
  • disrespect of privacy
  • forced sexual intercourse

Unfortunately, the research is quite limited when it comes to understanding the connection between ISB and FASD.

What we do know:

  • People with FASD are more likely than people without FASD to be a victim of inappropriate sexual interactions, including crimes like sexual abuse. These are also more common experiences for people with other developmental disabilities.
  • Rates of ISB are generally similar between males and females with FASD, but males may face more trouble with the law because of ISB.
  • Brain differences in individuals with FASD may interfere with regulating sexual behaviour. For example, people with FASD can have a gap between their chronological/biological maturation and their cognitive and social maturation, which may lead to inappropriate responses to sexual urges.

Researchers have estimated that inappropriate sexual behaviours are reported in almost 40% of children and 45%-52% of adolescents and adults with FASD, and rates may change across the lifespan.

CanFASD has recently released an issue paper overviewing the research in this area, as well as implications for individuals, families, service providers, and policy makers. These implications are summarized below:

  1. Individuals with FASD need access to sexual education programs. Healthy opportunities for learning about appropriate sexuality and discussing it openly may be lacking for people with FASD. It is critical that they receive sexual health education that is specifically informed by their needs and disability.
  2. Specific considerations regarding vulnerabilities and risks need to be kept in mind for individuals with FASD. For instance, sexual exploitation, understanding consent, history of abuse, suggestibility, memory impairments, and unplanned pregnancy may all be especially relevant for people with FASD and ISB.
  3. It ls likely that there are many unrecognized individuals with FASD who have had trouble with the law because of ISB. Sexual offending treatment programs should screen for FASD, and modified treatment approaches and expectations should be considered when working with offenders with FASD.

It is crucial that FASD-informed approaches towards adopting healthy sexuality and properly addressing ISB are implemented to help individuals with FASD as part of holistic support. Individuals with FASD are sexual beings like everyone else and need to understand their sexuality and sexual needs in a healthy way.


Copyright © 2018 Developmental Services Resource Centre All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
1120-205 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, ON
N2B 3T2

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Developmental Services Resource Centre · 205-1120 Victoria Street North · Kitchener, ON N2B 3T2 · Canada

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