FASD Virtual Learning Series, Session 1: Prenatal exposure, navigating stigma, and language use



On May 12, 2021, SFNFCI kick-started the seven-week virtual FASD learning series. The series is part of the action items of this year’s disability research project funded by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). The first session was led by Dr. Michelle Stewart from the University of Regina, and Shana Mohr and Robyn Pitawanakwat from the FASD Network of Saskatchewan. All three speakers brought a wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise to the session. We had 21 participants from various CFS agencies and SFNFCI networks.


The first session introduced what FASD is, the stigma around prenatal alcohol exposure and language use. Elder Ernestine Starr opened the session with a prayer. Then, in the first half of the session, speakers introduced what FASD means particularly in the Indigenous context, and how the complexity in understanding the disability arises because of the intersectionality of race, colonialism, and intergenerational trauma. The historical oppression and legacy of intergenerational trauma cannot be left out of the conversation when talking about why the rate of FASD is higher in many Indigenous communities across Canada. Speakers talked about acknowledging the land, who we are and where we come from (social location) can be a powerful tool to acknowledge this history, hence we had a breakout session where participants introduced themselves to one another and practiced the social location exercise.


In the second half of the session, speakers talked about how the language used to describe prenatal alcohol exposure can be detrimental to:

  • Women who may be seeking support during pregnancy

  • Relationship dynamics between the mother and their child

  • Promoting blame, shame, and stigma which can discourage families to seek the needed support


Similarly, discussions also revolved around how the type of language used in prevention can propagate stigma. For example, using language such as ‘End FASD’ or ‘FASD is 100% preventable’ can create a false and misleading narrative for people with FASD. It can often be interpreted as individuals with FASD are preventable and hence create more stigma and negative consequences which can have a ripple effect into that individual’s adolescence and adult life. Instead, speakers recommended using supportive and culturally appropriate language to address the stigma around FASD. Participants had the opportunity to analyze some of the languages used in the FASD prevention flyers and advertisements and discuss why the language may be inappropriate. One of the participants also shared how considerations such as intergenerational trauma perpetuated by residential schools, limited resources in the past, addictions, and domestic violence can account for the context of alcohol use in the communities and has to be considered for developing culturally appropriate strategies.



Overall, participants had positive feedback on the first session of the learning series:

“I have attended many FASD training sessions, and this was the first that addressed Aboriginal issues…It helped me look at things through the lens of a First Nation person. It would be great to have this perspective added into mainstream training sessions”

All three speakers were personable, engaging, and knowledgeable in the subject matter:

The presenters were open and clear in their information. [They were] personable and engaged with participants”

Participants were also looking forward to the next sessions and collectively learning more about FASD.

To learn more about the disabilities research project click here.

To learn about the FASD learning series click here.

If you need more info or assistance, please contact our researcher Anuja Thapa @ (306) 250-0740 or via email at anuja@sfnfci.ca or program coordinator Lacey Kaysaywaysemat @ (306) 526- 2566 or via email at lacey@sfnfci.ca


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *