FASD Action Hall (FAH)

The Cause

Our idea is to teach self-advocacy and life skills to adults diagnosed or suspected of having Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) through a proactive, non-traditional group experience. The group of 12 – 15 adults (and some with their support worker so there is follow up after a session) would meet weekly to follow a specially designed curriculum that addresses client needs. We would be the only adult support program of this nature in Calgary. Recent research suggests that 20% of the population are living with mild to severe behavioral, cognitive, physical and sensory disabilities caused by FASD (which is higher than autism). FASD is an invisible disability and thus individuals live with significant deficits that result in family breakdown, homelessness, unemployment, low self-esteem, addictions, mental health issues, criminal justice involvement and often suicide. The goal would be to empower these adults to live dignified, independent lives utilizing effective community supports and minimizing the crisis events that permeate their lives.

The weekly sessions would open with a prepared meal (for some, it is their only prepared meal for the week), open conversation, direct facilitation by program staff or from the Support Community presenting a specific learning opportunity; focus will be on learning and skill development. There is opportunity to practice the application of the skill and then dialogue with the medical residents from the U. of C. Family Medicine Faculty. Because many clients are from an Aboriginal background, opportunities to include Aboriginal culture and ritual are embraced.

Curriculum topics include (but not inclusive):
• understanding how FASD impacts their life in a personal way and design strategies for intervention,
• identifying and celebrating strengths,
• communication skills
• self-care and mental health issues
• accessing safe, affordable housing
• building sustainable, safe relationships
• time management
• budgeting
• addictions and relapse
• critical thinking skills,
• confidence in self-advocating,
• goal setting
• planning and preparing healthy meals
• criminal justice and FASD

Who Will it Benefit?

Clients and their immediate circle: Because the individuals have a better understanding of how FASD plays out in their life, they will work effectively with landlords to ensure rent is paid on time and the housing rules are respected. This ensures ongoing housing for them.
The clients are better able to build and maintain relationships with loved ones and family members. Broken families have the opportunity to be repaired. This includes reuniting and regaining contact or custody of children they have lost due to poor parenting and life management skills. Clients are able to build significant, safe relationships with peers which in turn, empowers self-esteem and inclusion.
Clients are able to become employed and able to design the structure needed in their daily living to keep a job. Clients will be able to learn healthy living skills, meal planning and, as a group become a “community kitchen” preparing meals that can be frozen and used over time by themselves.
Dealing with addictions and the justice system becomes an easier task and all of the above supports improved mental health.
Community Support Team: Those who accompany the individuals attending learn how to provide the support and structure needed for the client/person in their care. Through mentorship with the housing managers, employers, other family members and physicians, the community of support builds for the individual with FASD.
Resident Doctors: The University of Calgary Family Medical Doctor Residents attend the FAH sessions so as to increase their learning and awareness of how FASD plays out in a person’s life over the lifetime. They transfer their learning into their professional medical practice.
Research: Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected to demonstrate how a working group such as this can be replicated in other centers and identified as best practice in professional literature.