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There’s A New Pathway to Special Education for Up to 300,000 California Children (


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To read more of Roxanne Chang and ChrisAnna Mink's article, please click here.

A recently passed California law, SB1016, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September, should make it easier for DL and other children affected by FASD to access special education services. The law  requires the California State Board of Education to include “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders” in the definition of “other health impairment,” one of 13 specified eligibility criteria for special education under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  The law goes into effect in January.

“I am over the moon!” said Kathryn Page, a doctor of psychology who specializes in the care of people with FASDs and who advocated for the bill. “It will help promote awareness and acceptance of this condition as a real thing.”

FASDs are alcohol-related disorders thought to be the most common birth defects in the western world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, estimates in the United States that FASD may affect as many as 1 in 20 school-age children, about twice the rate of autism.

Historically, prenatal alcohol exposure was associated with low intelligence and characteristic physical traits, including small physical size, small head, and distinct facial features, such as short eyes and thin upper lip. However, experts have come to realize that those features aren’t as important for diagnosing FASD as understanding brain function. The type of alcohol exposure, quantity and timing during gestation, as well as genetic vulnerability, influence how alcohol can affect a developing fetus – resulting in a variety of physical and developmental impairments, ranging from mild to severe. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Sadly, many children with FASD are never diagnosed or are diagnosed late in life. Page, the psychologist, wasn’t diagnosed with an FASD until her fifties, though she’d had lifelong problems with memory, organization and “clumsy fingers,” due to poor fine motor skills. Eventually, her doctorate mentor diagnosed her.

Kathryn Page screenshot

Determined to make a difference for others with the disorder, Page and other FASD advocates connected last year with state senator Anthony Portantino (D—La Canada Flintridge) and his bipartisan co-authors to sponsor SB1016.


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