Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Conference Held in Michigan (MI UCEDD)

October 8, 2013

The Developmental Disabilities Institute (MI-UCEDD), the Michigan Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Task Force, along with several sponsor organizations, presented a day-long conference on September 12, 2013 entitled Our Journey of 40 Years and Beyond: Living and Learning with FASD. Ann Carrellas of the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit coordinated the conference planning and implementation.

The conference marked the 40th anniversary since the term Fetal Alcohol Disorder was used by Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones and Dr. David Smith in the first U.S. article describing the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on several children born to mothers who were severely alcoholic. Dr. Jones, who currently serves as the chief of the University of California San Diego's Division of Dysmorphology/Teratology and has written over 400 scientific publications, gave the key note address highlighting what we have learned about the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on individuals throughout their lives and prevention and intervention best practices. Other speakers included Dr. Mark Sloane from the Children's Trauma Assessment Center who spoke about the intersection of genetics, toxic traumatic stress and prenatal drug and alcohol exposure and Dr. Sally Burton-Hoyle from Eastern Michigan University and the National Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee who presented on understanding behavior as communication and positive ways to support people. Dan Dubovsky, FASD specialist from the SAMHSA FASD Center for Excellence, closed out the conference with a session on building on the strengths of individuals with FASD and their families to increase abilities and inclusion in their communities.

Breakout session included panels led by parents and adults with FASD discussing current community programs; representatives from the Michigan Partners for Freedom spoke about self-determination, transition planning, diagnosing teens and adults, understanding the complexities of interventions, and estate planning; and an update on Michigan FASD programs by the FASD State Coordinator. A panel of adults with FASD featured the experiences of three of the founding members of SAFA - Self-Advocates with FASD in Action - who discussed living and learning with FASD.

Over 220 people, including parents, individuals with FASD, teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, and community program staff, attended the conference. Sponsors of the conference included local parent support groups from Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan, CARE of Southeastern Michigan, MCFARES/NOFAS Michigan Chapter, the Great Lakes FASD Regional Training Center, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, and the Michigan Departments of Community Health, Human Services and Education.