‘Like living in a tornado’: Island woman living with FASD opens up about the condition

'Like living in a tornado': Island woman living with FASD opens up about the condition
WatchThe rate of alcohol use has risen among women during the pandemic, so a Vancouver Island woman is pleading for people not to drink when pregnant. Skye Ryan reports.

Lauren Richardson said she has felt like an outsider most of her life as the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder she was born with makes it hard to cope.

“It’s kind of like living in a tornado sometimes. We live in a world that’s very fast,” said Richardson, a Sidney resident who was diagnosed with FASD at 27.

She wants people to understand the brain injury that affects more Canadians than all the people with Autism, Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy combined.

September is FASD awareness month, yet according to Canada FASD, there’s a lot more people living with the disorder who don’t know it.

“I would say we’re only reaching about 5 per cent. And what’s happening to the others? They are struggling through the other systems, like mental health or they are misdiagnosed,” said Audrey McFarlane of Canada FASD Research Network.

“A lot of us end up in the justice system because there’s no support,” said Richardson.

FASD is caused by a mother drinking alcohol while pregnant, and affects all races and walks of life. According to experts the stigma and shame of FASD has many reluctant to seek help, or get diagnosed and the pandemic may be creating even more cases.

“We know that women have turned to alcohol to deal with the stress of Covid and so we anticipate that there will not be a decrease in the number of individuals born with FASD,” said McFarlane.

Richardson was adopted as a baby by a loving family, and she credits that with her success to become a highly functioning adult.

“I want people to know that you can be successful with this, if you get the right supports and get diagnosed early enough,” said Richardson.

Now that she has been diagnosed, Richardson has become an advocate for people living with FASD and hopes her story will help others find the support that they need.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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