Story last updated at 4:49 p.m. Thursday, August 15, 2002

FAS diagnosis first step
By Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Ovan Ishmael, a 9-year-old child with FAS, shares a quiet moment with adopted mother, Donna.  
Although children with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are each affected differently, a diagnosis is still crucial to getting help.

Frontier Community Services was set up in part for that purpose. Now in its third year, the program has diagnosed 150 people ranging in age from 7 1/2 months to 44 years old.

But among those diagnosed, only one child was brought in by its own biological mother.

Margaret Parson-Williams, coordinator of Frontier Community Services, said many undiagnosed children are suffering through learning and behavior problems unnecessarily because they have not been diagnosed.

"There's intervention that can really help these kids," she said. "With a diagnosis, everything can be put in place so the child can learn the most and gain the most, so the child can reach their maximum potential."

Without a diagnosis, children may be labeled lazy or lacking the ability to pay attention in school. Others may act up. Others may be quiet, but can't focus on work.

Though each case differs, researchers have found that similar factors, such as consistency in environment, repetition, routine and structure as well as linked support networks can make a big impact.

Parson-Williams said anyone who suspects their child may have fetal alcohol syndrome or effects can contact the organization for services. All services are confidential.

"People need to know there's no shame or blame," she said.

For more information on Frontier Community Services and its programs, call 235-2898.