Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are the nation’s leading known preventable cause of intellectual and behavioral disabilities and birth defects. It is estimated that 2-5% of children in the United States are impacted by this disorder, making it more common than autism. It is shocking to realize that alcohol – not cocaine or heroin or methamphetamine – has the greatest adverse impact on the developing baby. There is no cure, only prevention and costly supportive services for the child.

San Diego is home to a unique medical clinic for children with FASD. Kenneth Lyons Jones, MD, a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at UCSD, is one of two physicians who first described FASD in the United States in 1973. Dr. Jones and his team at the Institute for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Discovery conduct cutting-edge research focusing on how to best help these children by providing critically needed medical care, interventions and support for families.

Children with FASD frequently struggle in school, are victimized by peers and may have trouble with the law due to brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Judge Marian Gaston of the San Diego Superior Court has made a major commitment to educating members of the juvenile justice system and raising their awareness of this disorder.

Community advocacy is critical in raising awareness that FASD is a major public health problem. To begin the conversation in San Diego, Mary Reynolds is chairing an event on September 23 to hear from Dr. Jones about how it all began in 1973. He and fellow pediatrician Miguel del Campo will describe their unique clinic and programs. Everyone needs to become aware that no amount of alcohol is safe for a developing baby. “Our goal is to begin a campaign that NINE MONTHS MATTER, and that stopping FASD begins now”, Mary shared with Giving Back Magazine. For event details please contact Mary Reynolds at mreynolds52@san.rr.com.