Funding boost for UQ FASD program to slash waiting times

14 Feb 2022

Queensland children affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) will soon have earlier access to additional diagnostic and support services, which could give them better long-term outcomes.

A collaboration between UQ's Child Health Research Centre and Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, the UQ-led program will be expanded to support practitioners across locations in southern and central Queensland following $1.5 million in Commonwealth Health funding.

UQ’s Dr Natasha Reid said the funding would see the three-year waiting list for the University of Queensland and Children’s Health Queensland Neurodevelopmental Clinic significantly reduced.

“The clinic is one of the few services in Queensland that sees adolescents affected by FASD, and that’s a big reason why our waitlist is so long,” Dr Reid said.

“This funding will mean we can increase staff numbers, expand the existing clinic and support practitioners to undertake assessment and diagnosis across other sites in Queensland.

“This means we are able to see and support more children and their families.

“An earlier diagnosis leads to better outcomes because more support can be put into place to help people.”

Dr Hannah Gullo from UQ's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences said the clinic began as an initiative led by UQ occupational therapy students.

"A group of occupational therapy students undertook a needs analysis and developed a service provision plan as part of their final year action learning project.

"The clinic now provides interprofessional education and practice opportunities for UQ psychology and occupational therapy students working with paediatricians from Children's Health Queensland.

"We also have plans to incorprate speech pathology and physiotherpay rotations into the clinic." 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is caused by alcohol exposure before birth and is the leading cause of non-genetic disability in Australia.

Children with FASD can often experience significant challenges including difficulties with memory, behaviour and everyday life skills.

For mother and daughter, Geraldine and Lola, a FASD diagnosis at UQ’s clinic transformed their lives for the better.

“Things changed for Lola pretty rapidly when she hit high school,” Geraldine said.

“I thought ‘okay’, it’s time to take this out of the dark and into the sunlight; we can’t be alone.”

“The number of times I thought I was just this dumb kid who couldn’t fit into a certain society,” Lola said.

“There is an answer and it’s such a relief!”

Dr Reid said there was limited FASD services in Queensland, particularly in regional areas.

“That’s something we will address with this funding, through training and support for health professionals across more Queensland sites,” Dr Reid said.

“Hopefully in the future we will have more people able to diagnose and provide support, and therefore better meet demand and achieve better outcomes.”