Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Growing Problem - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 04/27/06

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Growing Problem

By Maggie Wade
maggie@wlbt.net

When most of us think of child abuse we usually think of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse and neglect. But there is another kind of abuse that occurs before the child is even born. It is called fetal alcohol syndrome and it affects more than forty thousand children each year in the United States and it's a growing problem in Mississippi.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and in the metro area child advocates are focusing on this form of child abuse that occurs while the baby is still in its mother's womb.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a leading cause of mental retardation. It is also one hundred percent preventable. "That's the tragedy," said Joe Bennett. "When a woman drinks, the baby drinks."

Joe Bennett with the Family Support Center and Patricia Digby with Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth say they have three focuses on this issue. Education, prevention and intervention.

"It is not something a child will outgrow," said Digby. "It is something that will effect them from the time they're born, until... for the rest of their lives."

There are symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, though it has been difficult to diagnose. The symptoms include feeding difficulties, sleep disturbances, alcohol withdrawal, vision problems, the child is easily startled, epilepsy, behavioral problems, organ and body dysfunctions, and heart and kidney defects. "It's a risk that I can't imagine any parent willing to run," said Bennett. "The safest thing, the only safe way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is not to drink alcoholic beverages."

Child advocates are working to educate teachers and healthcare providers on what to look out for. They say mississippi is behind the rest of the nation in recognizing this form of child abuse.

A seminar on fetal alcohol syndrome will be held May 25 at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jackson. Those attending will get continuing education credit. For more information call Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth at 601-354-0983.

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