The Significance of FASD - diagnoses in the accounts of professionals in social and health services
Center for Research and Development Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 00700 Helsinki, Finland
According to some evaluations, FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) is regarded as one of the most significant causes to disability in contemporary society. In the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland, they have started to prepare new legislation for developing caring facilities for those mothers who have alcohol problems during their pregnancy. The public discussion concerning this issue has had many dimensions in moral and ethical sense with the rights of the unborn child on one side and social rights of the mother on the other. In this cultural and political atmosphere is has been important to begin with a project for development which aims at increasing knowledge about the affects of alcohol use on fetuses, developing educational models for experts and professionals and investigating, what kind of support are provided by the social and health care services for the children with FASD. This research project has started in the autumn 2008 along with the research question, what kind of social positions are constructed for those children in those relevant professional fields and are those positions constructed in moral sense. The data has been gathered during this winter among doctors in neuropsychology, children´s psychiatry and developmental disabilities, nurses in social pediatry and drug use units, social workers in child protection and teachers in day care units for children with special needs. It has been surprising, that in the interview accounts of those professionals the significance of FASD - diagnoses seem to be controversial. Many seem to think that the diagnoses of FAS or FAE are necessary for the children to gain relevant social, educational and health care services. On the contrary to that, many professionals have the opinion that the diagnoses may be harmful, since they are stigmatizising. Some of them also seem to think, that it is not always necessary to investigate the cause of the disability, since care is provided for them according to the specific symptoms, in any case. These different discourses concerning the significance of FASD - diagnoses are analysed together with discussing the ethical and moral implications within these professional accounts.