Susan Byrne, executive director of seventh Generation Foundation, pets Noah, one of several people-friendly animals at Dream Catcher Farm in Potomac.
Photo by Peggy McEwan/The Almanac
Saturday is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day and Dr. Susan Rich is opening her Potomac Dream Catcher Farm for a series of events to help share the good news and bad news of the disorder.
The good news, Rich says, is that the disorder is preventable; the bad news is that society is not doing enough to keep future generations from developing it.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by alcohol the fetus absorbs from the mother during pregnancy. It causes problems for the child such as an inability to handle sensory overload, trouble processing information and issues with social relationships, Rich said.
“This is no laughing matter,” Rich said. “One in 20 children have some form of the disorder and we’re allowing our social drug of choice do something [so harmful].”
Drinking alcohol is the early weeks of pregnancy is especially harmful she said. Much damage can be done as early as the third week of pregnancy when women often don’t even know they are pregnant.
Rich is passionate about the issue of FASD. She said she had already graduated from North Carolina State University in microbiology and was working in pharmaceutical research when she first learned about it.
Now, many women know not to drink alcohol during pregnancy but that is not enough, Rich said. “When you know you are pregnant it’s too late.”
Besides increasing public awareness of FASD, Rich devotes her professional life to working with children with the disorder and their parents.
“I work to keep kids on track with their educational goals and to help parents understand [them],” Rich said. “It’s hard to parent children with FASD, I give hope, this is possible but you need to rethink parenting.”
Rich’s vision for Dream Catcher Farm is to provide a “safe, therapeutic environment for children, adolescents and young adults with neurodevelopmental disorders to learn vocational, social and life skill,” according to her farm brochure.
The farm is home to seven goats, a few chickens, a pig named Noah, three dogs and a number of barn cats, Rich said. All are hand raised to be comfortable with Rich’s clients.
The farm provides a place for the children to “develop a sense of self while doing meaningful, character-building work,” Rich wrote in the brochure.
Saturday’s events are from 5-8 p.m., beginning with a fundraiser/dog walk and continuing through the evening with music, socializing and a visit with the farm animals.
To register for an invitation to the Sept. 9 event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.