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Bells to chime in awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

| Monday, Sept. 8, 2008

The biggest reason to abstain from alcohol is a little one.

At 9:09 a.m. Tuesday, programs and events will be held nationwide in observance of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day.

Now in its ninth year, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day began at 9:09 a.m., the ninth minute of the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month of the year in 1999.

The date and the time were chosen to stress the importance of abstinence from alcohol for women during the nine months of their pregnancy.

Started by a small group of adoptive and foster parents who wished to bring more light to the disorder, the awareness day was originated with the hopes of bringing more attention to FASD.

"Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is preventable," said Joe Augustine, Fayette County Drug and Alcohol Commission Preventative specialist. "We want to focus on the day itself and try to make more women aware of how alcohol can affect them and how it can affect their babies."

Every year, approximately 40,000 babies are born in the United States that suffer from a FASD.

FASD is a blanket term that is used to describe preventable birth defects and developmental disabilities.

FASD affects about one out of every 100 babies born in the country, which adds up to more than spinal bifida, Down Syndrome and muscular dystrophy combined.

Some characteristics of FASD include attention deficits, poor sleeping habits, poor social skills, poor judgment, being easily influenced by peers, explosive response to change and inability to follow rules.

Many who suffer from FASD are born underweight and undersize and remain small in stature and they may also possess distinctive facial characteristics such as having a small head, small eye openings, a low nasal bridge or a thin upper lip.

Total abstinence from any form of alcohol is stressed, as there is no safe amount or limit of alcohol consumption for a women who is pregnant.

"There is still a lack of public awareness of FASD," Augustine said. "We want to try and change that and make people more aware. FASD is 100 percent preventable simply by abstaining from alcohol use during pregnancy."

A moment of reflection will be held in Fayette County when the bells at the Fayette County Courthouse will toll at 9:09 a.m. Tuesday.

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