THE HCET’s three-pronged strategy for combating Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) was outlined at a national conference in Cape Town recently.
FASD encompasses a range of mental and physical birth disorders caused by excessive alcohol consumption by pregnant women. It damages many children in disadvantaged communities, especially in rural areas.
A FASD Task Team – previously a FAS working group – has been active in the Western Cape since 2001. Its spreads the message that FASD is 100 per cent irreversible, but also 100 per cent preventable (when pregnant women do not drink). It also promotes the message that pregnant women should not drink at all.
The Task Team held a national conference in Cape Town in September, aimed at exploring practical approaches to FASD interventions. It was attended by Lesley Osler, the HCET’s project co-ordinator, and Estelle Jacobs, its project manager.
Spelling out the HCET’s school-family-community approach, Estelle said FAS formed part of the Life Orientation curriculum for grade 6–9 learners. FAS field workers visited farm workers in their homes and also staged community workshops where both men and women were alerted to the dangers of alcohol abuse by pregnant women.
Learners affected by FASD attended special classes where they received intensive individual attention from trainers utilising specialised techniques, and were allowed to develop at their own pace.
They were eventually steered towards a youth development programme aimed at giving them the skills they needed to enter into employment, and become responsible adults.