Awareness call for alcohol’s child victims

Stuff 11 September 2014
Of all the harmful acts attributed to alcohol, little is known about the “sleeping giant” among them, yet it inflicts serious and increasing damage, says Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills.

Experts conservatively estimate that between 500 and 1500 babies a year are born to alcohol-affected pregnancies in New Zealand, but say the numbers could be much higher.

The lifelong condition, which varies in severity, causes serious behavioural difficulties that have traditionally been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, with United States studies suggesting affected children are 19 times more likely to end up in jail.

Two mothers of children affected by the disorder say more needs to be done to promote awareness and prevention as well as to support sufferers and their families.

Jackie Prichard says she did not drink heavily during pregnancy, but her son, now 12, was diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) four years ago. Like many affected children, he was disruptive at school and was thought to have ADHD.

“I was your average . . . middle-class, married . . . I used to hang out with girlfriends, we’d drink a bit of wine, but I certainly wasn’t a heavy drinker.

“When I got pregnant I got all the information and lectures on smoking, but never got asked if I drank at all. Once I was pregnant I didn’t drink much at all. I had pregnant friends who drank much more than me, and their children were not affected.”