Disability Employment Awareness Month: A Focus on FASD

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Disability Employment Awareness Month is celebrated in Canada during the month of October. The goal of this national holiday is to raise awareness of the positive outcomes that come from hiring people with disabilities, and celebrate the contributions that these individuals have made within the Canadian workforce.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most common developmental disability in North America, impacting more than 1.4 million Canadians. Consistent and fulfilling employment can help individuals with FASD develop positive identities, self-esteem, and self-worth. Employment is key to reducing poverty and fostering independence in individuals with FASD. Meaningful employment can also prevent the occurrence of adverse outcomes that individuals with FASD commonly experience, such as substance use, mental health issues, and trouble with the law.

Individuals with FASD often face challenges joining the workforce and maintaining steady employment. For example, they may have difficulty paying attention, exhibit impulsive behaviours, have trouble remembering specific information, tire easily, and be slow to perform activities. However, individuals with FASD have many strengths that are of huge benefit to employers and workplaces. Common traits include curiosity, creativity, tenacity, sociability, friendliness, helpfulness, and generosity.

Employers often don’t have a strong understanding of what FASD is and how it can affect
individuals. They often set expectations that are unrealistic for employees with FASD. Employers that can understand the challenges faced by individuals with FASD, and recognize their strengths, can create an inclusive workplace where individuals with FASD can thrive and contribute meaningfully to their community and provide value for their company.

Employers can help create a successful environment for individuals with FASD by accommodating their disability in simple ways. Creating and maintaining routines in the workplace for individuals with FASD will help them thrive. Avoiding complicated jargon and acronyms, and speaking at a slower pace, can overcome some communication challenges.

In 2018, members of the CanFASD research team released a guide for employment professionals. In response to comments from the community, they updated the guide in order to make it more informative and useful for employers and other employment professionals. The goal of this document is to guide the work of employment professionals as they help individuals with FASD prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment.

To read more about FASD and employment, please check out our employment resources page.

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