Free FAS workshops guide teachers

Veronica Williams, from Early Years Services (EYS), pictured right, facilitated a session on foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) with Mitchells Plain early childhood development (ECD) centre teachers.

Chane Beukes, of Lentegeur, who has a child at Springwood Baptist Educare in Lentegeur, joined 10 Mitchell’s Plain early childhood development (ECD) centre teachers in Town Centre between Wednesday February 28 and Friday March 2 at a free training session on foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which affects the brain, nervous system and memory of a child.

They received certificates on completion of the workshop, aimed at raising awareness about the disease that affects the brain. Children contract it if their mothers drink alcohol when they are pregnant.

Ms Beukes said the course gave her more insight to identify FAS within children in her community and that she now felt empowered to help her neighbour whose child has FAS.

“I could not do that until I had all of the information. I could see something was wrong but did not know what,” she said.

“I really would like to help her,” she said.

Participants were taught that parents of FAS children just needed to be listened to.

“I am not here to judge. They just need an ear to listen, to say what and why they are doing what they are doing,” she said.

Facilitator Veronica Williams, from Early Years Services (EYS), said any alcohol consumed during pregnancy affected the child’s brain. EYS, a non-profit organisation, focuses on the development of the ECD sector and works with young people in rural and urban areas.

“The sooner the mother stops (drinking), the better the chance of the child’s brain developing better,” she said.

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to babies with FAS, also known as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). FASD is the umbrella term for a range of disorders which can be mild or severe and can cause physical and mental birth defects.

Types of FASD include: foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); partial foetal alcohol syndrome; alcohol-related birth defects; alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder; and neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

Ms Williams said Mitchell’s Plain was a vast area and that FASD was pertinent in the understanding of children’s learning abilities.

The workshop equipped caregivers to identify the disease and to seek help in referring children.

They were taught to observe the child for up to six months, record their findings and report it to the principal and the parents to get the necessary help.

Washeefa Sassman, 19, from Paradise 4 Kids Pre-primary in Lentegeur, said parents sending their children to buy alcohol was also a problem.

“I knew FAS was problem but I did not know it in detail,” she said.

Her colleague Mario Alexander said he was challenged to take what he had learned back to his community.