Care for children and their families dealing with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is to be expanded in Queensland following a $1.37m funding injection for a Griffith University project.
The funding, provided by the Australian Government Drug and Alcohol Program, will see Queensland’s two FASD clinics, based at Southport and Maroochydore, expand to allow earlier diagnosis and better intervention and support for children who have had prenatal alcohol exposure.
Professor Sharon Dawe from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland will lead a consortium of organisations delivering the three-year study.
“Early diagnosis and support is essential for children with a FASD,” Professor Dawe said.
“Early to middle childhood is a time when children learn important foundational skills around managing their own behaviours, learning to plan activities and follow more complex instructions. These skills are essential for success in school and life and children with a FASD need extra help in developing these skills.”
“There’s growing evidence that supporting children and their families at this critical time can help reduce some of the damage that has occurred due to prenatal alcohol exposure.”
Dr Doug Shelton, the Clinical Director of Community Child Health from consortium partner Gold Coast Health, said the service development funds would allow the Southport clinic to assess more children and provide better follow up.
“We expect this funding will allow us to diagnose an extra 100 children per year through our FASD clinic, which is two to three times the capacity we are currently able to assess and diagnose,” Dr Shelton said.
“While we can’t put a precise figure on the prevalence of FASD in our community, overseas studies estimate that between 2 and 5 percent of the population are impacted – so on the Gold Coast alone, it could be as high as 25,000 people impacted with this invisible brain injury.”
“In addition to allowing us to develop a better model of diagnosis that’s cheaper and more efficient, this study will enable us to diagnose FASD earlier. This has the potential to improve foundational skills in children and to work with carers and parents to support their children’s development.”
The study embeds a pathway of care aimed at improving child self-regulation and family functioning.
The Griffith University-led consortium consists of Gold Coast Health, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, Kummara Association, the University of the Sunshine Coast and the University of Queensland.