Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are life-long disabilities that may affect as many as 1 in 20 children in the United States, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The department says that many professionals working in the field expect that number has doubled in Alaska.

Now, the department is partnering with the Interior Distance Education of Alaska to offer free two-day workshops to caregivers for those living with the disorders throughout the month of June.

"In the last 10 years we've learned so much information and we're sharing this information with parents who are teaching their children and anybody else that wants to come is welcome to come to our workshops," said Deb Evensen, of the Governor's Council on Disabilities & Special Education's FASD workgroup. 

Evensen says her big takeaway from recent research is that children with FASD mature cognitively at a slower pace — about ten years longer than their counterparts on average.

"The hardest time for an individual with FASD is usually early adult life," Evensen said. "Often that's because that's when our structure and our support around them in society is gone because we expect kids to be grown up then."

Knowing that the developmental age of an individual with FASD is usually about half their physical age can help family members adapt how they approach academics and problem-solving at home, Evensen says.

"What's really important for parents to know is that right now there is so much hope," Evensen said. "We know what to do and we know how to help children who have been born with this particular type of brain difference caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. We know how to help them reach success in adult life."

The workshops are scheduled in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Juneau and Soldotna. For more information about specific dates and times, click here.

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