Up to the task

North Dakota has more bars per capita than any other state – one for every 1,600 persons, according to a news release and that may be a red flag for the seemingly high incidence of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in North Dakota.

Justin Boseck, neurology resident with Trinity Health, has planned a task force meeting to gauge interest in reviving a statewide task force to highlight the impact that FASDs have on those affected, their caregivers and the community. He plans to inform people what FASDs are and his mission is to get people talking about it.

“My main goal is information and prevention, spread the word, and make sure people know that absolutely no alcohol is OK during pregnancy,” Boseck said.

The task force meeting will take place Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m. at Trinity Health Center-Riverside, 1900-8th Ave. SE, west of Minot’s Holiday Inn. There is no cost or registration for people interested in attending. The task force meeting is for everyone interested in learning about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and the impact of alcohol on an unborn child, Boseck said. The goal is to eventually have an annual conference, he added, but that’s five years down the road. The main goal is to try to identify the disorder and reduce incidence rates through information, Boseck said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is the name given to a group of conditions that a person can have if that person’s mother drank alcohol while she was pregnant. FASD is an umbrella term that describes a range of effects that have lifelong implications for the child, including attention issues, possible low IQ, learning disabilities, abnormal facial features and a variety of behavioral problems. Additionally, FASDs are a leading known cause of intellectual disability and birth defects.

“Over 90 percent of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome will have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Boseck said. Also, the prevalence of FASD is about one in 100 compared to one in 88 for autistic disorders, he added.

“Given the harm to children and the social costs, it’s essential we do a better job getting the word out to women of reproductive age so kids have a better chance of living healthy, happy and productive lives,” he said.

Boseck, as a neuropsychology resident, makes FASD diagnoses through tests and documentation of physical features associated with the disorder. Once the diagnosis is made, treatment options are considered based upon the child’s presentation, including therapy and interventions to help the child perform better in school. A physician needs to be the one to determine whether a child has fetal alcohol syndrome, Boseck noted, but he ranks the central nervous system aspect.

“Diagnosis is a team effort,” he said.

The best cure for fetal alcohol syndrome is prevention, Boseck said.

“If you’re pregnant, don’t drink alcohol, and if you can’t stop drinking alcohol, then don’t get pregnant,” he said. “There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.”

The most important aspect for people to know about fetal alcohol syndrome is the prevalence of it, Boseck said. The prevalence is nearly equivalent to autism spectrum disorders, he added.

“Not many people know what it (fetal alcohol syndrome) looks like and not a lot of information is out there,” Boseck said.