Recognition of FASD as a Disability in the QLD Education System

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As a Child Health researcher into fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, (FASD) I meet numerous families who are grappling to understand why their children are struggling to fit into society, answers that no other specialists are able to help them with. FASD is a severe, lifelong neuro-developmental disorder that can manifest as difficulties with language, learning or physical activities.

We are calling to recognise FASD as a disability under the QLD Education Adjustment Program (EAP) to give these kids the support they need. The lack of recognition of FASD as a disability is profoundly limiting the educational engagement of this vulnerable population.

While some children with FASD meet the criteria for impairment because they live with recognised conditions like Speech-Language impairment or Intellectual Disability, this is not the case for most other children. For example, children with FASD who have severe impairments in their executive functioning, memory and attention, which significantly impacts their ability to engage in the school setting are not recognised. Consequently, they aren’t able to access appropriate support in our school system.

Our research has found that children with FASD experience ‘systemic discrimination’ in the education system. They are at increased risk of long-term adverse life outcomes. We can prevent some of these outcomes by recognising the impact of FASD on children and providing the support they need.

Lola, a young person diagnosed with FASD last year shared how life-changing the diagnosis has been for her:  “I thought I was this dumb kid who didn’t know how to fit into a certain society, like a kid who can’t just be like any other child and I think obviously, the other kids in school didn’t understand and they would just pick and poke and make fun of me. And the teachers, they would say well why can’t you do this, it’s easy, why can’t you just do it. I don’t know, I can’t do it. And now that I am here there is an answer to why I can’t. It is just a relief; it is how I am, and it is how I have to live my life and I am actually a lot happier now.”

The lack of understanding regarding the impairments experienced by children with FASD is pervasive in our QLD education system and is resulting in young people disengaging and dropping out of school much earlier than their peers.

Please sign and share this petition to acknowledge that the challenges that children and their families experience are valid and call on the government to include FASD as a verifiable disability under the EAP system.