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Children with brain damage caused by their mothers drinking while pregnant are to get special help at school.
More than 6,000 children are born each year with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) – a range of physical, behavioural and cognitive disabilities, including permanent brain injury, learning difficulties, poor co-ordination and hyperactivity.
The Training and Development Agency, which is responsible for the training and development of the school workforce, is offering £50,000 for a research project on how learning is affected by the disorder. The project will develop practical resources for teachers to support children in both primary and secondary schools.
“FASD presents challenges for teachers and other professionals that may require innovative approaches to education,” a spokesman for the agency said.
Last May the government began to advise total abstinence in pregnancy. But at around the same time the NHS advisory body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, suggested that mothers could drink small amounts.
As binge drinking rises, so will FASD, says Teresa Whitehurst of the Sunfield Research Institute, which has worked on FASD in Worcestershire schools.
This week the National Organisation on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-UK, the only group in Britain dedicated to raising public awareness about the risks of maternal drinking, is holding a conference to address the link between FASD and illegal and antisocial behaviour.
“There is no way to know for sure how alcohol might affect each individual unborn baby,” said Susan Fleisher, executive director of Nofas-UK. “The only thing we know for sure is that FASD is 100% preventable if mothers abstain from drinking during pregnancy.”
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