Parents and other caregivers talk about the kinds of things that help and don’t help them cope with a child who is affected by FASD. The top barriers faced by parents and caregivers with children affected by FASD are: 

  • the nature of FASD itself.
    FASD is often called an “invisible” disability. That’s because most children who are affected aren’t visibly different from other children. So they don’t get a diagnosis of FASD. People just think there is something “wrong” with their behaviour. For more information about this topic, go to the Understanding section of this site, here
  • other things can cause behaviours that look like FASD.
    Sometimes, FASD can be confused with other behaviour or psychological issues or conditions, like ADHD or Autism. But this is also true for children who have a chaotic upbringing or who have experienced trauma or separation from their parents. Things like growing up in poverty or with distracted parents (for example, parents who are substance abusers) can also mean that children have difficult behaviours.
  • other people (and sometimes the caregivers, too) misunderstand the behaviours associated with FASD
    This is especially true if a child does not have a diagnosis of FASD. In school, for example, children can be seen by teachers as deliberately “bad,” stubborn, or attention seeking because they are unable to complete tasks or are disruptive. In fact, children who are FASD affected might:
    • have difficulty understanding verbal directions
    • have a slower thinking pace
    • be over-stimulated
    • have difficulty absorbing information and putting it into action

  • lack of diagnostic clinics.
    This is a problem in a lot of places. But it’s especially true in our communities, when it’s difficult to get travel costs covered for families traveling from remote areas to get to a diagnostic clinic. There are also long waitlists. But it is possible to get diagnostic services. For more information about this topic, go to the Understanding section of this site, here

Here is how a parent in one of our communities describes how these barriers have affected her son:

Audio Transcription:

“Other people didn’t understand that my son has a disorder and needs special attention and he needs to have a different kind of care. So instead of helping, they end up pushing his buttons and making his behaviours worse and more difficult for us to manage.”


The results of these barriers mean that parents and caregivers of children affected by FASD might be:
  • called “bad parents”
  • blamed as the cause of their child's behavior
  • put under a constant microscope
  • judged by others for their child’s “unexplainable” behavior

This means that parents and caregivers are likely to have less confidence in their parenting skills and more stress in their families. It can also cause parents to avoid support for fear of being criticized or misunderstood.

On the other hand, the top supports reported by parents and caregivers with children affected by FASD are:

  • access to diagnostic clinics and other FASD-specific supports
  • appreciation for their circumstances and their wisdom in dealing with their children
  • solid relationships with service providers
  • service providers who follow a strengths-based and FASD-informed approach

For more information about this topic, go to the Strategies section of this site, here

Want more information about barriers and supports for children who are FASD affected and their caregivers? Check this out:

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres:  Aboriginal Approaches to FASD