Asante Centre pioneers FASD research and assessment

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Author: 
Joanne Thalken
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine

The Asante Centre, located in Maple Ridge, was started three and a half years ago by Dr Kojo Asante who worked in Northern BC for many years and became a pioneer researcher in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) through his work in Aboriginal communities. Asante provides assessments for people affected by FASD, a term that describes a range of disorders and effects that can occur in a person whose mother used alcohol while pregnant.

Staff at the Centre provide pre-adoption assessments, assessment of school-age children, of youth involved in the criminal justice system, and of other youth and adults. In their pre-adoption assessments, they have worked with families who have adopted from Vietnam, Romania and India. Although it is difficult to do a thorough assessment based on the photographs, videos and sometimes incomplete medical information given to families, the team tries to give them as complete a picture as possible of the risk factors the child has for developing FASD. The Centre’s staff also conduct assessments for families adopting locally through the Ministry, and provide services in BC’s remote communities.

They provide food and a comfortable home-like environment for families who will be at the centre for a full day-and-a half while their child is being assessed. Families, social workers, care workers, foster families and other professionals who work closely with the child are invited to be present at the assessment, to support and learn from the child and participate in developing the plan for the child’s care. Staff work hard to provide emotional support to families who are often overwhelmed when their child is first diagnosed with FASD. During a diagnosis, the Centre helps families and care providers to fully understand the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. They are then better prepared to support the child with his/her disabilities and to advocate for their child.

After diagnosis, the Centre is available to help families to access services and interventions available to persons with an alcohol related diagnosis. Asante also helps families and care providers to become more knowledgeable about the disability and the appropriate methods for assisting an affected individual. The Centre provides consultation services and training to teachers, lawyers and other professionals working with people with FASD. It also has a new partnership with the Pacific Legal Education Association, providing FASD assessments for high-risk youth, attempting to provide alternatives to custody for youth with FASD, and providing training to probation offices, caregivers and others who need to understand the difficulties these youth face.

Why have a pre-adoption assessment for FASD?

  1. It helps the family to decide whether or not to adopt.
  2. It helps paint a realistic picture of how the family must adjust their lifestyles to accommodate the  child’s special needs.
  3. Provides direction and guidance for intervention.
  4. Provides opportunities for assistance and intervention.
  5. The earlier the diagnosis and interventions are put into place, the greater the likelihood for the reduction of associated symptoms such as school disruption, and mental health problems.
  6. Provides a reason for caregivers and those affected to become more knowledgeable about the disability and how to assist the child or themselves more effectively in their development.
  7. It helps to explain the child’s behaviour.
  8. It can lead to realistic expectations about the child.
  9. An assessment can assist the caregiver in helping to know their child better in some of the following areas: memory, language, social skills, severe maladaptive behaviors, attention or activity level, gross and fine motor skills.

To contact the Asante Centre and find out more about their services, call Audrey Salahub at (604) 467-7101 or check their Website at www.asantecentre.org.