Psychology researchers target foetal alcohol spectrum disorder

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Psychology researchers target foetal alcohol spectrum disorder

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Professor Mary Katsikitis

26 September 2017

USC Psychology academics and students will work to improve the diagnosis and care of children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) on the Sunshine Coast, following the announcement of a $1.37 million Australian Government grant.

USC Professor of Psychology Mary Katsikitis is part of a joint clinical project to be led by Griffith University’s Professor Sharon Dawe over the next three years to improve services for children with FASD and their families on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

“It’s exciting for USC to be involved in this project under the Government’s ‘Taking More Action on FASD’ initiative,” Professor Katsikitis said.

“We’ll work with the FASD clinic based at the (Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service) Child Development Service at Maroochydore, with the aim of expanding services so that more children get the care they need earlier in life – and more families get the support they need.”

The Government recently marked FASD Day as a reminder that there is no known safe limit of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. In the case of alcohol-related birth defects, Australia has a prevalence rate of close to 11 per 1,000 cases.

Professor Katsikitis said opportunities for USC Psychology students in the specialist area would include placements with the Child Development Service’s new clinical psychologist, as well as research studies.

“We want to increase the capacity of diagnostic assessment on the Coast – including identifying children as young as three – so we can intervene in their development and learning before they run into difficulties at school,” she said.

“We also want to ensure the service delivery model for assessment and assistance is based on latest evidence.

“This is a wonderful community engagement opportunity for our University, allowing us to help a vulnerable group of people improve their quality of life.”

Professor Katsikitis is already supervising a USC Master of Psychology (Clinical) student, Jessica Doak, whose research will help evaluate the current services on the Sunshine Coast.

The University will work closely with Dr Heidi Webster of the Child Development Service Sunshine Coast. Project partners include Griffith University, University of Queensland, Gold Coast University Hospital, Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, Kummara Association and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Julie Schomberg

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