“It was really hard trying to be like all the other kids but I just I knew I was different.” Claire D
Claire D is a vivacious 25-year-old. To the outside world she is just an average young woman:
“She presents so well and convinces people she’s fine and she can manage. But in reality there’s a lot of areas where she really can’t do it by herself without support.”
Seth is 31 and has spent a lifetime struggling to cope:
“I look fine, I act fine but nobody actually knows what goes on in my head. Things that my brain does to me without me even wanting to. Makes life very difficult.” Seth
They both have brain damage, caused by their mothers drinking alcohol in pregnancy.
“I’m sure there’s lots of mothers out there that know that they drank. They’re too scared to come forward because it’s a shameful thing.” Claire H, mother who drank alcohol while pregnant
In this confronting story, we take you into the lives of three everyday Australian families grappling with the consequences of drinking in pregnancy.
The children face a devastating range of problems, from behavioural issues to learning difficulties, collectively known as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
And it’s much more common than you might think. Best projections indicate it could affect more than half a million Australians.
“I think the burden… is predominantly in the white middle class.” Paediatrician
We go inside Australia’s first dedicated clinic where specialists are diagnosing and tackling the disorder, and warn that some children diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are actually suffering the effects of foetal alcohol exposure.
“We regard foetal alcohol spectrum disorder as being the driver for ADHD.” Paediatrician
The doctors also caution that Australia’s heavy drinking culture overshadows the concerns we should have about women drinking alcohol in pregnancy.
“A woman does not have to be an alcoholic [to cause damage].” Psychologist
Hidden Harm, reported by Deb Whitmont and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 2nd November at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 3rd November at 10.00am and Wednesday 4th at midnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.