New Facilitator’s FASD Training Guide for First Nations Women

Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario has published a new guide to help facilitators deliver FASD workshops for First Nations women (Download guide). Using culture as its foundation, the guide focuses on promoting health. It also integrates FASD-informed and trauma-informed approaches. It is set up so that facilitators do not have to be an expert on the subject of FASD. The guide provides detailed background information, instructions and resources so that facilitators can fully prepare themselves for delivering the workshops.


Topics covered in the training guide include:

  • Preparing for the Workshop – covers information like bringing the workshop to communities where there is a concern about the stigma attached to FASD, planning for participant learning differences, as well as handling logistical details.
  • Facilitating the Workshop – includes welcoming activities, giving background about healthy pregnancy, identifying and building on personal strengths, making a plan for health, and drawing on community for support and self care.
  • Resources, Services and Appendices – provided are weblinks to further information and videos; services for pregnancy, parenting, substance use and FASD; participant handouts, and consent forms.

Best Start Resource Centre is well known for its resources for service providers who work with diverse women and families on preconception health, prenatal health and child development.

For more on related topics, see earlier posts:

FASD is a public safety and justice priority for Aboriginal groups, October 23, 2016

Experiences of Northern British Columbian Aboriginal Mothers Raising Adolescents With FASD, January 20, 2014

Pimotisiwin: A Good Path for Pregnant and Parenting Aboriginal Teens, August 26, 2013

“You are not alone. Support is available.” Alcohol and pregnancy campaign designed by and for Aboriginal women in Manitoba, April 10, 2013

Handbook for Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Work from Australia, January 9, 2013

The Sacred Journey – new resource for service providers who work with First Nations families, August 1, 2012

Aboriginal Comic Book for Pregnant Women and New Moms, May 1, 2012

Pregnancy and Alcohol Brochure for Aboriginal Families, January 30, 2012

Aboriginal midwifery and Poverty & Pregnancy in Aboriginal Communities, August 17, 2011

FASD Awareness Campaigns: Creating Effective Messages


With International FASD Awareness Day just around the corner (on September 9th), many organizations and communities are getting ready by developing awareness materials and planning activities ranging from pancake breakfasts to seminars and training for health professionals to social media activities.

In the past decade, awareness about FASD has increased and in many communities the majority of women are aware that alcohol consumption can cause harm during pregnancy. However, new research and ongoing media coverage and continues to raise questions about whether any alcohol use during pregnancy is okay or whether risk remains the same throughout pregnancy. And many people know very little about FASD in general.

In addition to addressing this type of ambiguity, there are a number of other types of messages that have been shown to be helpful, informative and supportive. Depending on who your audience is (see the infographic above about some different audiences you could consider), some of the other issues to consider in developing FASD prevention messages include:

  • Make sure that messages are balanced and informative. Indistinct or ambiguous messages about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy should be avoided. Messages like “Think before you drink” or “Alcohol can harm your unborn baby” can be perceived as threatening without helping women place risk into context.
  • Avoid focusing on encouraging women to stop drinking for their baby or suggesting that women who don’t stop drinking are uncaring or irresponsible. This includes messages like “When you drink during pregnancy so does your baby” or messages written on top of pregnant bellies saying “Hey, I’m in here!”  Lessons from the tobacco and pregnancy field indicate that these messages are not effective and can be perceived as shaming and blaming women who are unable to stop drinking during pregnancy due to problems with alcohol dependence.
  • The message that “Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is 100% preventable” is controversial as alcohol use often happens before a woman recognizes that she is pregnant or can be tied to other serious health and social issues such as poverty and experiences of violence.
  • Don’t forget that preventing pregnancy by supporting accessible and safe contraception is an excellent FASD prevention strategy – it’s not always necessary to focus on alcohol use. For example, a message could say something like “Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. If you drink alcohol and are sexually active, make sure you use effective contraception.


Here are a few resources for starting to think about effective messaging and communication.

  1. Keys to a Successful Alcohol and Pregnancy Communication Campaign – While over a decade old, this 2003 resource from the Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario remains an excellent guide to getting started with thinking through key issues related to alcohol and pregnancy awareness campaigns. Includes facts, tips, ideas, and examples. The Centre also has a range of resources for health professionals and general audiences related to alcohol, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, including Mocktails for Moms and printer-ready handouts in English, French, Arabic, Cree, Ojibway, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog
  2. FASD PosterMaker app -This app was designed for health professionals working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care settings across Australia so that they can create their own locally relevant and culturally appropriate resources on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
  3. BC Ministry of Health International FASD Awareness Day Toolkit – Includes planning tools, sample press releases, and FAQs
  4. Alcohol, Pregnancy and Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: What Men Can do to Help – There are a number of ways to engage men in FASD prevention activities. This two-page fact sheet has a dozen suggestions to start thinking about how to create messages and campaigns that view FASD prevention as a shared responsibility.

For more discussion on best practices and controversies related to messaging, see earlier posts:

Pimotisiwin: A Good Path for Pregnant and Parenting Aboriginal Teens

Pages from pimotosiwin_july19b

The Best Start Resource Centre in Ontario, Canada has released a new resource for service providers called Pimotisiwin: A Good Path for Pregnant and Parenting Aboriginal Teens.

Pimotisiwin is an Ojibwe word that means following a good way or a good path. The resource is intended to help service providers support Aboriginal children and youth to live a good life, on a good path.

The content is relevant to health care providers, early childhood educators, teachers, prenatal service providers, parenting program staff, and others who come into contact with Aboriginal teens who are pregnant or parenting. The resource may be most useful to non-Aboriginal service providers who want to strengthen their services for Aboriginal youth. The content may also be useful for new Aboriginal staff, providing an orientation to the prenatal and parenting needs of Aboriginal youth.

Substance use is included as an area for discussion during pregnancy. The resource provides background on why Aboriginal teens might use substances:

“Substance use can be seen as a way to cope with past and present traumas, self-medicate for undiagnosed mental health concerns, or cope with serious ongoing stresses such as poverty or abuse. Substance use can include alcohol, solvents such as glue and gas, street drugs, misuse of prescription drugs, etc.’

This resource is available for free download from the Best Start Resource Centre’s website here.

For more resources for service providers on working with Aboriginal women during the perinatal period, see previous posts:

Alcohol and Breastfeeding brochure from the Best Start Resource Centre

Mixing Alcohol and Breastfeeding brochure

In February 2011, Best Start Resource Centre conducted an online survey with parents across Ontario to examine awareness and behaviours regarding breastfeeding and alcohol use.

The researchers found that most women drank little or no alcohol when breastfeeding:

  • 64% did not drink alcohol while breastfeeding
  • 27% drank less than 1 drink a week.
  • 5% drank 1 to 3 drinks per week
  • 4% drank 4 to 6 drinks per week

Most women stopped drinking or reduced the amount that they drank while breastfeeding.

  • 57% stopped drinking altogether
  • 26% reduced the amount of alcohol they drank
  • 18% did not change their drinking habits

Breastfeeding and alcohol survey cover

Women were split on the impact of alcohol use on their decision to feed their baby:

  • 48% felt that drinking alcohol did not impact their decision about how to feed their baby
  • 39% felt that alcohol use did impact their decision on how to feed their baby

In general, the survey showed that:

  • Women with higher incomes had higher levels of alcohol use
  • Women with higher incomes were less likely to stop drinking while breastfeeding

Best Start Resource Centre with the support of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has created a new brochure for mothers and their partners to help them make an informed choice when it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

The Centre has also created a printer-ready handout with information and tips for expectant parents about alcohol use in pregnancy which are available in English, French, Arabic, Cree, Ojibway, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog.


View more resources on alcohol and pregnancy on the Best Start Resource Centre website here.


Best Start Resource Centre. (2012). Breastfeeding and Alcohol Use: Parent Knowledge and Behaviours in Ontario, 2011. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

2012 Alcohol and Pregnancy Media Campaign in Ontario

FASD Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE) Campaign: August 27 – September 30, 2012

2012 Ontario Alcohol and Pregnancy Campaign

FASD Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE) is a group that works to address issues related to FASD in the province of Ontario in Canada. The Prevention Working Group develops and promotes effective strategies, resources and programs that address alcohol use in pregnancy with a priority focus on high-risk groups.

One of the main activities of the Prevention Working Group this year has been the organization of media buys for an alcohol and pregnancy campaign in September 2012 (to coincide with International FASD Awareness Day on September 9th).

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada – Ontario Region, the Group has bought media buys that include transit ads, mall ads, cinema ads, and information through web, print and social media in approximately 30 communities. The focus has been on provincial media buys that are usually beyond the scope of local groups.

You can learn more about the media buys on the Best Start Resource Centre website here. There are also links to short articles that organizations are welcome to include in newsletters, media releases, and other activities to support FASD awareness.

2008 Ontario Alcohol and Pregnancy Campaign

You can learn more about FASD ONE on the organization’s website and read the May 2012 newsletter here.

The Sacred Journey – new resource for service providers who work with First Nations families

New resource explores the journey from preconception to parenting

The Best Start Resource Centre  in Toronto, Ontario has released a resource for service providers who work with First Nations families called The Sacred Journey from Preconception to Parenting for First Nations Families in Ontario.

Alcohol use and FASD is covered in the sections on preconception and pregnancy, but alcohol use is also discussed from a historical and cultural perspective:

“The impact of intergenerational trauma from disease, forced relocation, religious indoctrination, the residential school system and racism have left a “soul wound” in the heart of First Nations communities (Duran, Duran, 1995)…. When addressing substance use, keep in mind that information and advice may not be enough. Understanding and addressing underlying factors such as poverty, stress, abuse, mental health concerns etc., may be particularly important in setting the stage to address substance use.”

The resource brings together up-to-date statistics on use, practice tips and resources for service providers.

I especially like that the resource challenges service providers to view alcohol use as an issue that is integrated throughout the lifespan and isn’t just something to get concerned about when a woman gets pregnant. Historically, FASD prevention efforts have been very “fetus-centric” and have missed seeing a woman within a greater context (e.g., partner, family, community) as the route for action and awareness.

Jessica Yee (Mohawk), Founder and Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, comments in the resource:

“I am quite concerned about the isolation of the rest of sexual and reproductive health to pregnancy and birthing. It’s almost as if pregnancy and birthing gets treated like it’s a separate issue—disconnected from other issues like sexual self-esteem and pleasure, and it is typically approached with a very heteronormative, monogamous lens (as in it’s an identified “woman” who is pregnant with an identified “man” and they have a monogamous relationship). This does not allow any resources, support, or dialogue for Two Spirit, transgender, or gender non-conforming persons, alternative families, surrogacy, or single mothers to be.”

This resource can be downloaded for free from the Best Start Resource Centre.

For more on similar resources in Aboriginal/indigenous communities, see previous posts: