“Prince George’s County Maryland – An Opportunity for FASD Awareness”

Last summer, local attorney Evan Wilson had a “light bulb moment” during Dr. Rich’s presentation in Prince George’s County, MD on June 20 about FASD and the law. Dr. Rich and two of the “BSTS change agents” met with him to discuss his perspectives about the role of the judiciary system in identifying and assisting individuals affected by FASD. As a juvenile delinquency attorney, he represents indigent minors in court who cannot afford to pay a lawyer. As Assistant Public Defender in PG County, he sees his job as educating the court about his client as a whole and not solely focused on a “snapshot” of the person’s life. Like the age old question – “Do we look at the crime or the individual?”, public defender Wilson sees the importance of making the court aware of challenges they face in their lives. “If you look at a person they are more than one event, they have a whole life behind them.” He emphasizes the importance of the right treatment protocol for a successful recovery to prevent recidivism (future delinquent acts).  He believes that further education and awareness in the PG County court system to be able to appropriately intervene in the lives of adolescents and adults affected by FASD.

The Importance of Self-defense in Prevention of Sexual Assault

This summer, before going off to college, the BSTS interns had the opportunity to train with black belt instructors at Kicks Karate in Potomac (http://kickskarate.com). Dr. Rich feels strongly that young women and men need to understand basic self-defense strategies to avoid situations in which they may be harmed. With the epidemic of binge drinking on college campuses, she encourages all of her patients to be trained in self-defense before leaving high school.

In this BSTS session, Black Belt Master Chris and Lead Instructor Master Nick shared insights on how to be safe and make smart decisions when going out socially and taught the interns several key self-defense body moves for getting out of unavoidable danger.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel and learn those key self-defense body moves alongside us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovbkc1faC-A

The most important things to keep in mind:
  • Watch your body language; predators are looking for an easy target
    • Maintain eye contact
    • Represent confidence in your posture
    • Maintain a safety distance to strangers
  • Make smart choices
    • Stay in groups
    • Park and stay in well-lit areas
    • Use your intuition, be comfortable with where you are and the people you are with
    • Be aware of your surroundings (e.g., don’t run with earbuds, you might not hear someone approach you)
  • DON’T BE A VICTIM!
    • Alcohol and other drugs impairs our mental ability to make safe choices.  Substances influence our judgment, making unsafe people or situations seem okay.
    • Alcohol impairs our physical ability to defend ourselves. Chris admitted: “If I have alcohol in my system, I can’t trust my techniques, although I have over twenty years of experience.”
    • If you drink alcohol to the point that you “black out” à ask yourself: “is this really happening?”
    • Usually we don’t expect anything “bad” happening since we live in an area protected by the law.
    • Don’t wait to second guess an assailant’s motives à Act fast!
    • If you are uneasy or comfortable with something say “NO!” loudly in a very clear voice with a different tone (high or low pitch) and intensity.
  • DON’T BE A BY-STANDER!
    • have the moral courage to stop dangerous things from happening (e.g., obviously drunk young women being taken advantage of; someone who overdoses on alcohol that is unconscious needs medical attention not hazing or pictures taken of him/her)
    • take care of your friends have the courage to stop something wrong (i.e., friends drinking too much or going home with strangers)
    • despite the feeling of “group okay,” have the strength to step out and to intervene (unfortunately people tend to watch and become numb if they witness something wrong happening).
Self-defense is nasty, but it’s to protect you from becoming a victim!

The self-defense stance:

  • one leg is back for stability and balance, you can get in to action mode way faster
  • elbows are bent, your hits become more effective
  • your fingers are spread symbolizing STOP

When someone approaches you:

  • keep him 2 “actions” away from you (i.e., 2 steps or leg lengths)
  • use your voice in different levels (our voice range can vary in between 10 different pitches)

If you have to defend yourself:

  • position your hips behind shoulders
  • target a palm strike under the chin or
  • aim straight in and out in the eyes
  • for the kick strike, lift up your knee first and then kick (that way your kick becomes more powerful)

We hope this video encourages you to take a self-defense class, and most importantly to have the moral courage to stop something wrong from happening to yourself or someone else.

 

We thank Masters Chris and Nick with Kicks Karate for talking to us about the importance of self-defense, for raising our awareness about dangerous situations, and for teaching us some basic strategies.

FASD Awareness Day 2014 “Bring on the Beer and Pass Out the Condoms”

Our Better Safe than Sorry Project effort with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington in recognition of FASD Awareness Day was a success.  Six volunteers distributed condoms at a booth outside The Barking Dog bar in Bethesda, Maryland on Saturday evening (before the party crowd).  Our aim was to test the idea as a pilot project, to gather reactions from pedestrians and patrons, and to learn more for future campaign events.

Booth

Our display booth with free condoms was visited by a number of pedestrians and bar patrons.

Table with condoms

Informational condom cards made a nice display with the U.S. Surgeon General’s warning cards by the bathroom door.

 Bathroom stalls

We posted posters behind the bathroom stalls where customers could read over the information in privacy.

Top 10 BSTS Lessons Learned about Condom Distribution:

  1.  Female bartenders felt passing a condom with the first drink of the evening would seem like a proposition. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that???

  1.  50 and 60-somethings agreed to share the informational condom pocket cards with their 20 and 30-somethings (who were partying elsewhere) – men seemed more open than women.

  1.  A scientist from the Environmental Protection Agency now knows that prenatal alcohol exposure affects 2-6% of American children – a bigger problem than environmental chemicals!

  1.  Most people thought that the CDC rate of 1 in 8 (13%) underestimated true numbers of college women binge drinking and were shocked that 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned.

  2.  When passing a condom to a pedestrian, do so discretely (i.e., whisper, don’t shout – “Use a condom if you drink alcohol!”).

Pass it on –  Contracept if you drink alcohol to prevent FASD!!!!

Free Condoms at the Barking Dog Bar and Grill for FASD Awareness Day

In recognition of FASD Awareness Day, on September 6th, the Better Safe than Sorry Project Team will be at the Barking Dog pub in Bethesda, MD distributing 999 condoms and informational materials about FASD.

The condoms were donated by the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.  For each first drink of the evening purchased, patrons of the bar will receive a condom with a bookmark cover to promote contraception for alcohol consumers.  BSTS project volunteers will provide information and a brief discussion about FASD for those who express interest in learning more.

 front of condom cover  inside of condom cover Back of condom cover

Our project concept was developed by our interns after the idea was suggested during one of our summer talk show segments.  From a primary prevention perspective, It’s a little further “upstream” approach than the pregnancy test kits in bars – another extraordinarily innovative project implemented in Minnesota and Alaska.

STOP our social drug of choice from affecting 2-6% of school aged children with preventable brain damage.  Just like HIV/AIDS & STD prevention, help spread the word to “contracept if you use alcohol!” 

Special thanks to BSTS volunteers Melissa Blair and Nick Muzic, BSTS interns Sydnie Butin, Juliana Pietri, Carlye Hillman, Kaitlyn Gularson, and Nathalie Pollack, and our fabulous BSTS Blog Master, Daniela Mielke for creating and implementing the innovative FASD Awareness Day prevention project. We are also thankful to the Barking Dog bar and grill for letting us promote our project there and to Robert Ridley of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington for donating the condoms.

The Need for Public Education about FASD/ND-PAE

BSTS Blog Series: “Protecting unborn babies from alcohol-related harm”

Written by Nathalie P

The Need for Public Education about FASD/ND-PAE

Through health classes in school, we have learned that consuming alcohol while pregnant is a problem. However, I believe kids and teenagers don’t learn enough about the damage drinking during pregnancy can cause. We are taught that alcohol use increases rates of violence, crime, and sometimes death or suicide. What schools should also teach us is that consuming it even before you know you are pregnant can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). These problems can range from physical birth defects to “functional” birth defects, which may include intellectual disability, learning issues, mood outbursts, and other psychiatric or behavior problems. These are serious and irreversible effects on the life of a child.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have programs available for high school, middle school, and elementary school teachers to educate children and adolescents about FASD. These programs are available online through the following websites:

NOFAS FASD Kindergarten through 12th Grade Education and Prevention Curriculum: http://www.nofas.org/k-12-curriculum/

UNC-CH Better Safe than Sorry Curriculum: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Science/curriculum.html

“When Rain Hurts” by Mary Greene

In this episode of the BSTS talk show, change agents and Dr. Rich recently sat down with Mary Greene, an adoptive mother of two children from Russia, to discuss her memoir, which is much like a contemporary version of Michael Dorris’s, “The Broken Cord.”   

 
“Mama, rain hurts Peter.”
 
This was among the first intelligible sentences Mary Greene had ever heard her six-year-old son say.   The pain caused by the gentle touch of rain is a poignant example of sensitivity to commonplace stimuli that FASD are troubled by on a daily basis. 
 

In her book “When rain hurts” Mary describes her journey of adopting Peter and her daughter, Sophie, as toddlers, and the struggles and joy she and her husband have experienced since then.  From discussions about her son’s disruptive behavior to learning about and dealing with his FASD-related special needs, she opens up her life in a very honest and touching way.

“You can still love someone but hate what it’s doing to our family and what it is doing to him. And the impact that it is having on all of us.”
From the beginning of their family life together, Mary and her husband, Pat, consulted Dr. Aronson, an international adoption specialist who was uncertain about the degree of Peter’s FASD, but fairly certain that he had it.  Over time, Peter’s behavior seemed very robotic. He repeated things over and over again and seemed autistic. His sensory issues caused him to refuse most foods except those with soft texture.   One of the strongest supports she found was Dr. Ronald Federici, a well-known developmental neuropsychologist from Clifton, VA specializing in post-institutionalized children with histories of profound neglect and deprivation.  He diagnosed Peter with Autism and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as well as intellectual disability.
 
 
Reading the book, most of all, I enjoyed her journey entries as snapshots in time. Mary says that her journal entries reflect an evolution of her parenting skills over time. For children with FASD normal/natural parenting strategies don’t work.  As an example, consequences are difficult to use to change behavior because many kids with FASD have a hard time learning from experience.   Like Peter, they can be impulsive, easily led and gullible, have poor judgement, and difficulty deciding between right and wrong.  For parents and caregivers, this means they must adjust their expectations to the child’s capabilities.  Because they have problems with “cause and effect” reasoning, there is a high rate of incarceration among individuals with FASD.  The difference in Peter’s case is that his parents understand his underlying special needs and have proper supports put in place to prevent him from being taken advantage of or ending up in jail.
 
Though parenting a child with FASD has been challenging, when given the choice to change anything about her situation, Mary emphatically states – “I would always choose my children!”  
 
From her first hand experience raising a child with this preventable developmental disability, Mary believes we must change the way we speak with women during childbearing years.
“The message has to be changed, that  drinking when you have the opportunity to get pregnant is dangerous and comes with risks. Doctors and other health care professionals need to speak honestly with women about their drinking habits.”
 
Thank you Mary Greene for taking the time to talk to us about “When Rain Hurts.”  Your book has inspired us and will hopefully motivate others to change their lifestyle behaviors before, not just during, pregnancy.
Daniela Mielke

BSTS Talk Show Episode 4: Ideas for Raising Awareness About the Dangers of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure”

Our fourth episode of “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!” sheds light on the recent Alaska initiative to prevent FASD by placing pregnancy test dispensers in the women’s bathrooms of bars. This campaign is designed to help women know whether they are pregnant to avoid prenatal exposure from that point on.  While it is a novel approach to FASD prevention, what happens when the woman finds out she’s already pregnant and she had already been drinking?

[For more information on Alaska’s recent campaign, read the article Alaska to offer free pregnancy tests in bars to curb fetal alcohol syndrome on foxnews.http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/06/16/alaska-to-offer-free-pregnancy-tests-in-bars-to-curb-fetal-alcohol-syndrome/?intcmp=obnetwork]

In our show, we discuss the idea of passing out a condom to customers at bars along with their first alcoholic beverage purchased for the night. If a person is drinking alcohol, they will hopefully stop and think about preventing pregnancy when they see the condom and read the large print warning message placed strategically on the wrapper.

Our motto is: “If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, avoid alcohol. If you’re using alcohol, avoid pregnancy.” Use contraceptives!

There are plenty of methods that we discussed such as condoms, the spermicide sponge, birth control pills, implanted contraception, etc.  Sadly, since just after the development of oral contraceptives in the 1970s, the rates of unplanned pregnancy have stayed relatively the same – at about 50% for all socioeconomic groups.

We believe that the FASD epidemic causing brain damage to children before women know they are pregnant is as much a public health crisis as the AIDS epidemic.  Just like with HIV/STD prevention, make conscious decisions when talking about alcohol and sex potentially leading to a pregnancy.

In this episode, we also discuss the man’s role in preventing (or causing) FASD. A man who drinks heavily causes “epigenetic” changes in his sperm. This means that the alcohol causes molecular changes in the DNA of the sperm.  There are also some studies showing low birth weight and prematurity as outcomes of alcoholic fathers even when the mother abstains. Since it takes 3 months for sperm to develop prior to being able to fertilize an egg, men have a responsibility along with women to avoid alcohol when planning pregnancy – both for the safety of their child and out of respect and support for their partner.  We like to point out that alcohol may boost libido, but heavy use can cause “faulty plumbing” and lowers a man’s fertility. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

– This week’s BSTS Ghost Writer:  Sydnie Butin from Salisbury University, Maryland.