Maude Champagne, Rachel Willis and James Reynolds
Research has consistently shown that parents of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience greater levels of stress, severely impacting their quality of life. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a growing concern about increased challenges experienced by these families. A mixed-methods approach was used to address our research questions. An anonymous online survey (n = 17) along with semi-structured interviews (n = 10) conducted over the time period of October and November 2020 were used to explore the needs and challenges of families of children and youth with FASD during the pandemic. Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The most striking finding for caregivers was an increased occurrence of their children’s challenging behaviours, including aggression. Previous mental health issues of children were reported as being exacerbated due to the disruption in services, loss of routines and structures. Several parents reported being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of caring for their children. Placement instability, mental health issues in the child, siblings and parents were all amplified. This study underscores the need for increased mental health support for individuals with FASD and their families, including safe and accessible respite options and interventions to respond to dangerous behaviours and aggression both during the pandemic and post-pandemic.