Rob More of the Rural FASD Support Network, Rick from Almonte, Minister Todd Smith, MPP Jill Dunlop, Dr. James Reynolds of Kids Brain Health Network, and Eric, Rick's support worker. Photo by Minister Todd Smith of MCCSS

by Rob More

On February 23 and 24, 27 individuals with FASD, and their caregivers from the Rural FASD Support Network, navigated their way to downtown Toronto and the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park. After spending the night at their hotel relaxing, swimming, and checking out the sights, they spent Monday at Queen’s Park. During the day, they attended Question Period, where MPP Steve Clark of Leeds-Grenville introduced the group. They heard seven other MPP’s introduce others from across the province who also were there for FASD Awareness Day at Queen’s Park.

Following Question Period, they joined 18 service providers from across the province, including Kids Brain Health Network, the primary sponsor, and the Smiths Falls Knights of Columbus, our secondary sponsor. At noon, remarks were made by Steve Clark, the sponsoring MPP, Minister Todd Smith of MCCSS, MPP Monique Taylor of the NDP, and MPP Kathleen Wynne of the Liberal Party. Following the remarks, the visitors came in and shared their stories with the 43 MPP and staffers in the room.

The MPP’s heard Rick from Almonte talk about how his life turned around with his diagnosis of FASD, the support of his worker Eric, how he recently graduated from Algonquin College, and is still seeking a job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. They heard how our youth have athletic skill, technology skill, knowledge skill, academic skill, and mechanical skill, and how, using their strategies, are experiencing positive outcomes. They heard how little Kallie has already been through multiple surgeries due to the FASD, and she stole the entire show with her laughs and smiles. Finally, it was pointed out that when people with FASD who have the courage to share their stories, informed service providers who use evidence-based practices, and empathetic and compassionate members of society come together, inclusive, accessible positive outcomes can be achieved for all marginalized members of society. However, the piece that is still missing is an overarching strategic plan at a provincial level to sustain these supports.

Following the presentation, multiple conversations took place, pictures were taken, meetings were scheduled, information was exchanged, and awareness regarding FASD was substantially increased.

At the end, a panel presentation on How Justice and Mental Health are linked through FASD was shared and videotaped by our official photographer, Aidan, who will have his work featured shortly by the Kids Brain Health Network. The audience heard how FASD leads to choices that can result in difficulties with the law when inappropriate approaches are used. Solutions were offered through early mental health intervention and informed mobile crisis interventions, as seen in the counties of Leeds-Grenville and Lanark. During this time, Skylar shared how her life was turned around through our local partnership between the OPP Perth Detachment, Smiths Falls Police, and the Lanark Mental Health Unit. It was stressed that the funding for this partnership has ended, and so further funding is needed.

In combination with the eight private meetings during the day, the Rural FASD Support Network considers the day to be a success and is pleased to partner with so many others in bringing awareness to the challenges the marginalized people of Lanark and Leeds-Grenville face on a daily basis.

This is why we are also pleased to announce we have now partnered with Cogeco TV of Brockville, Kemptville, Smiths Falls, and Perth in creating the first TV show in the world dedicated to people with FASD through their Podium format. Please read for future announcements regarding our speaker series and training events. We are also pleased to announce our participation in CanFASD’s online course developments in an advisory capacity including their Foundations course, which is free to the public. We would encourage all people interested in learning more about FASD to take this 90 minute course.

We want to thank our sponsors, including the Kids Brain Health Network, the Smiths Falls Knights of Columbus, Passport Funding, the Mills in Almonte, Beckwith Township, and Barker Funeral Home. We also need to thank all our service providers, caregivers, and especially our youth and adults with FASD for having the courage to share their stories.

The Rural FASD Support Network is a non-profit corporation which provides a monthly peer support groups for children with disabilities and their caregivers on the third Saturday of the month. We also bring awareness to all levels of government and society of the existing gaps within our services, and provide advice and direction in those circumstances based on lived experience. To join us, or learn more, please email [email protected], or register through our Facebook page.

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