Towards a Standard Canadian Definition of FASD

For a common and accurate definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder…

FASD Prevention Conversation Project


At CanFASD, we have been working to create a common definition of FASD for use in a Canadian context.

We believe that if all governments, service agencies, and researchers use a common definition of FASD, it will:

  • Reduce stigma, given that many existing definitions are quite harsh and use incorrect or outdated information
  • Increase understanding of the disability
  • Increase consistency in our messaging
  • Reduce confusion

When talking about FASD, we recommend that individuals avoid:

  • Referring to FASD as something that is “caused by” or is “the result of” a mother consuming alcohol while pregnant, as this can inadvertently place blame
  • Fatalistic terminology and phrasing (e.g., “with no cure”, “devastation”, “preventable”, and “average life expectancy”)
  • Outdated terms, like “mental deficiency” and “mental retardation”
  • In line with our language guide, avoid the terms primary and secondary disabilities

Our draft definition has received feedback from our CanFASD staff, our team of Research…

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