Synapse is committed to increasing awareness about FASD, particularly in relation to people who may be undiagnosed and at risk of homelessness and/or engagement with the criminal justice system. 

One of the largest causes of preventable paediatric brain injury is prenatal alcohol abuse (Rasmussen et al., 2006).  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the specific condition that can arise following heavy maternal (and possibly paternal) drinking (Abel., 2004). FAS is visible at birth in facial features and other identifiable birth defects. FASD however, may not be visible at birth, but can become apparent during childhood with learning difficulties, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and deficits in emotional, physical, and/or social functioning (Streissguth & O’Malley., 2000).  

Data about the prevalence of FASD in Australia is limited, but studies in the United States suggest between 2% and 5% may be affected (Burns et al., 2013). FASD crosses cultural and socio-economic, boundaries, and is not limited to one demographic. However, in some marginalised Indigenous communities the prevalence may be as high as 12% (AMA, 2016). There is a need for culturally appropriate methods to identify and manage FASD in at-risk groups.  

If FASD is unmanaged, it can lead to secondary effects including:   

  • difficulty accessing education and gaining employment; 
  • substance abuse; 
  • mental illness; 
  • lack of independence; 
  • interaction with the justice system. 

Related Projects

Murri Court Pilot Project

In 2018-2019 Synapse partnered with the Brisbane Murri Court to complete a pilot project in response to the need for culturally safe screening for brain injury and complex disability in the Murri Court system.

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Assessing the Disability Needs of Indigenous Prisoners

Synapse is working with Griffith University to review the processes for assessing the disability needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners.

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The Guddi Way

The Guddi Way Screen is a culturally appropriate screening process to identify brain injury and complex disability. Once a brain injury has been identified, it may enable a pathway to appropriate support via the NDIS. For some people, this may the first time in their lives that a brain injury has been identified and that they have the opportunity to receive support.

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Women Exiting the Corrections System

In 2018 Synapse partnered with the NSW Department of Justice and Guthrie House, a not-for-profit transitional service for women exiting the prison system, to support women who may have a brain injury.

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