FASD, Substance Use, and Recovery

April 4th, 2024

1:30 pm to 3:00 pm

Glen 209 – TELUS Convention Centre Calgary

About this session– FASD, Substance Use, and Recovery

FASD is a medical diagnosis and it can be complex to understand both for the individual and the natural and professional supports. There are many commonalities in individuals who were prenatally exposed, however FASD is a diagnosis that exists on a spectrum and every individual will develop uniquely, as will their strengths, life skills, and coping skills.

FASD is only caused by exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. There are many reasons why a person may continue to drink during pregnancy and the conversation that choice can be a difficult one and should be done with a trauma informed, harm reduction approach. Understanding why women may continue to drink during pregnancy is an important part of our both our FASD and prevention messaging.

The prevalence of FASD in the recovery community is difficult to measure as many go without a diagnosis. There are a multitude of sociological, brain, and body-based reasons why substance use are high among those with FASD.

Individuals with FASD face challenges in mainstream addiction recovery programs. Much of recovery requires planning and problem-solving skills, as well as abstract reasoning, personal insight, and counterfactual thinking. There are simple modifications that can be made to programming and conversation that will maintain the integrity and core principles of recovery care while supporting for success with individuals with FASD or possible FASD.

ConnectFASD is home to the piloting SUDS (Substance Use Disability Supports) program. SUDS uses a multilayered approach to supporting individuals with FASD in recovery We believe in a holistic approach to recovery and we know that when the circumstances of an individual’s life improve, their substance use often decreases. Our ConnectFASD wrap-around care model ensures a Recovery Oriented System of Care for our individuals and their families and caregivers.

Learning Objectives

1) FASD 101

a. What is FASD?

b. What causes FASD?

c. Brain-based disability as highlighted by brain domains of assessment and diagnosis.

d. Prevalence and statistics of FASD in the community.

e. How might FASD present in an individual in the community?

2) FASD and Substance Use

a. Prevalence and statistics of FASD in the substance use and recovery community.

b. Why is recovery different with FASD?

c. Where are the barriers in mainstream recovery communities?

d. What are some strategies for working with FASD in recovery communities?

3) ROSC and FASD

a. ROSC as delivered through the integrated response of wrap-around care.

b. ConnectFASD and CARE Teams.

c. SUDS Strategists.

d. Community and Professional Development trainings.

Addressing Lived Experience

Due to the sensitive nature of a diagnosis and what we know to be the brain impacts, we do not have our individuals on stage with us. Instead, we have created a video series of the lifespan of FASD and substance use. These will be short reels highlighting the key points of our learning objectives through the unique lens of individuals in their own distinctive voices.


Publications That Support Our Presentation

1) CanFASD Moving Towards FASD Informed Care in Substance Use Treatment – https://canfasd.ca/wp-content/uploads/publications/Moving-Towards-FASD-Informed-Care-in-Substance-Use-Treatment.pdf

2) Toward Healthy Outcomes –


3) The Prevention Conversation-



Christy KneissChristy is the Manager of Knowledge and Prevention Services at the Calgary Fetal Alcohol Society. Christy has been working in the FASD field since 2016 and has worked in all levels of support from light-touch mental health support to complex care. She is deeply passionate about both FASD and substance use and the intersectionality of those issues. Christy has taught FASD and Addiction at Bow Valley College and she has spent years developing a substance use recovery program for individuals with FASD.Christy brings her own long term recovery history as well as a lifetime of familial substance use and recovery experience to her work allowing for a multidimensional view of substance use and recovery.

Megan LongMegan is the Knowledge Facilitator at the Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network. She has worked in the disability and human services field for over 10 years and has a passion for learning about people from all walks of life and working to offer support that is unique to each individual to help them feel safe, secure, supported, and fulfilled. Megan has long felt that there are some gaps in awareness and understanding about FASD in many areas of society, and is thrilled to be a part of the CFAN and loves her role delivering trainings about FASD and FASD Prevention to community members, professionals, educators, students, and everyone in between!

Olivia SchaeferOlivia is a Strategist on the SUDS team. Olivia is passionate and fierce advocate for individuals with disabilities. Olivia has been working in disability for several years and has been working with FASD and substance use side-by-side with Christy since 2021. She is currently finishing a clinical social work degree and plans to use her learning to continue her advocacy in complex care for individuals with FASD.

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