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Fighting FASD.

This fun and stimulating computer game uses playful learning to help kids with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder form new neural pathways, thereby overcoming some of their challenges.

The need

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has devastating effects on the unborn child. Children born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) suffer from growth deficits, birth defects, and neurological damage. At school, they struggle with attention, memory, and executive functioning, falling far behind their peers.

South Africa has the highest reported prevalence of FASD in the world. While nothing can undo the damage caused in the womb, the plasticity of the developing brain means there is hope for these children. Poor communities in South Africa don’t yet have access to the resources to meet this challenge. Games, or playful learning, are an impactful way of helping these vulnerable children.

The innovation

The Foundation for Alcohol Related Research is developing a computer game targeted at children with FASD. The game is fun, and developed specifically to tackle FASD-related learning challenges. It engages children in activities that stimulate the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways.

It’s also open-source, which means it’s accessible and easy to distribute. The game has been piloted on a small group of children, with the aim of wider distribution across the country. Children in rural areas are hardest hit by FASD, and Fighting FASD is being developed with these children in mind.

Key insights

The effects of FASD are irreversible, but new neural pathways can be formed, making it so much easier for these children to learn.
Early intervention and focused but playful learning gives children with FASD a chance, and Fighting FASD offers an affordable and scalable means of doing that.

Apart from using the game as an intervention, it may also be possible to use it as a screening tool to identify cognitive delays in the school populations where FASD prevalence studies are being conducted. This may assist in identifying and diagnosing children with Alcohol Related Neurological Disorder (ARND) who frequently go undiagnosed.

The project team

The Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) is the leading source of research and information on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in South Africa.