SALT LAKE CITY -- One in 100 babies has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. That’s nearly the same rate as autism. But unlike other birth defects, FASD is 100 percent preventable.
To put a stop to it, dozens gathered at the state capitol on Tuesday for Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day.
“It’s something he's going to have to deal with his entire life -- it's not something he is going to outgrow. His brain has been physically damaged by that alcohol exposure before he was born,” said Jeff Stenquist, father of a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Stenquist adopted his first son, Eric, from Ukraine when he was 5 years old. Months after the adoption Eric was diagnosed with FASD.
“It really affects him in a lot of ways -- social interaction, reasoning skills, judgment, decision making organizational. He's a smart kid but has a hard time dealing with other people, dealing with stressful situations, coping with stress, things like that,” Stenquist said.
His son, who is now 18, is just one of the millions of people who have been affected. Even one drink during pregnancy can have a huge impact on a child’s brain development
“It seems like it's just a small decision to make to just have a drink. What harm could that have? But really it does have large lifelong impacting problems for the people that have to live with those conditions,” Stenquist said.
Each year 40,000 infants are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. And those who are affected say they can't understand why someone would drink while they're pregnant.
“You hurt the child and they have to live with that their whole life. You have someone else’s soul that you have control over and if that's how you’re going to be responsible over it maybe you shouldn't have a baby,” said Michele Macas, who was diagnosed with FASD.
And for Michele’s adopted mother she hopes that mothers will put the drinks down and keep babies healthy.
“It’s really hard for me I think that I try to tell my friends and family it's not worth it because look at some of the challenges I have to go through and my daughter has to go through,” said Denise Ornalas, mother of a child diagnosed with FASD.