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Funding boost for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder diagnosis and care

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The diagnosis and treatment of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is set to be strengthened with the announcement of $3.68 million in funding from the Federal Government’s Drug and Alcohol Program awarded to Griffith University researchers.

Led by Professor Sharon Dawe and Associate Professor Dianne Shanley from Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the projects worth $1.88 million and $1.8 million respectively, will help further the development of diagnostic and family support across south east Queensland and establish new diagnostic facilities in rural and remote Queensland with a focus on supporting First Peoples communities.

In collaboration with Associate Professor Doug Shelton (Queensland Health), Dr Andrew Wood (University of the Sunshine Coast) Dr Gerald Featherston (Kummara Association) and Associate Professor Paul Harnett (Griffith) Dr Dawe’s project will help establish a specialist neurodevelopmental clinic at Griffith’s Logan Campus.

It will also assist ongoing collaboration with the Gold Coast Child Development Clinics, Kummara Association, Institute of Urban Indigenous Health, University of the Sunshine Coast and Coastal Developmental Paediatrics, Sunshine Coast.

“The expansion of these clinics allows us to provide services to younger children aged 3-7 and embed a pathway of care that support children at a key developmental phase,” Professor Dawe said.

She said early diagnosis and support was essential for children with FASD.

“Early to middle childhood is a time when children learn important foundational skills around managing their own behaviours, learning to plan activities and follow more complex instructions. These skills are essential for success in school and life.”

“Children with a FASD need extra help in developing these skills and there is growing evidence that supporting children and their families at this critical time can help reduce some of the damage that has occurred due to prenatal alcohol exposure,’’ Associate Professor Shelton said.

In collaboration with Dr Erinn Hawkins and Dr Wei Liu (Griffith), Dr Marjad Page (Gidgee Healing Chief Medical Officer), Dr Natasha Reid (University of Queensland) A/Prof Shelton and Dr Heidi Webster (Coastal Paediatrics), Associate Professor Shanley’s project will establish new diagnostic facilities in rural and remote Queensland with a focus on supporting First Peoples communities.

“FASD is highly prevalent, under-recognised and underdiagnosed in Australia,” Associate Professor Shanley said.

“This grant will expand the capabilities of health professionals in primary care, by using our co-designed, culturally sensitive, tiered assessment process to identify and support children who are developmentally not on-track.”

“Our project involves true partnerships between community Elders, health practitioners and university researchers whereby multiple world views have been genuinely valued and integrated,’’ Dr Page said.

“When local primary health care providers are able to assess FASD, more children can receive the help they need within their own communities, as soon as possible.”

“Gidgee Healing is one of the first primary health care providers to offer local assessment and support for children with FASD,” said Dr Hawkins, from Griffith’s School of Applied Psychology.

“This cost-effective method allows early detection in primary care and provides access to diagnostic services in rural and remote areas that would otherwise not have professional FASD expertise.”

“Early diagnosis optimises a child’s future trajectories and outcomes. Scaling up this portable program across Queensland and Australia will maximise its benefits to children and families across the country,” Associate Professor Shelton said.

Story Source: Materials provided by the Griffith University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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