Looking Up the River

Who, When, Where

On November 8, 2001, Arizona held it's first statewide FAS conference in Tucson. Over 200 people from around the state attended. This was the first big step for the newly formed group called FAS Arizona.


This conference was planned by FAS Community Resource Center to help educate key persons around the State of Arizona to raise awareness about issues surrounding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome disorders, the causes, the consequences, and potential solutions.

The Theme

Read the story about the babies in the river.

Opening Blessing

Delmar Boni, Apache Medicine Man, led all in song, prayer, dance, and whoops.

Conference Sponsors

Key Players

Key Presenters

  • Edward Riley, Ph.D., Neuropsychologist engaged in FAS brain studies at San Diego State University, Chair of the National Task Force on FAS
  • Panel of Family Experiences: Tawny Nelson, Ruth Wyatt, Suzy Lucier, John Kellerman, Andrew McMullen (Read John's speech here.)
  • Panel of Agency Representatives from: Arizona Department of Developmental Disabilities; The Arc; University of Arizona Genetics Clinic FAS Diagnostic Team; Arizona Early Intervention Program; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Sonora Behavioral Health; Tucson Residence Foundation; and Arizona Prevention Resource Center.


  • "The opening with Delmar was great. All the speakers gave us good information."
  • "Great parent panel! I would like to hear more about families' personal experiences, successes and stories."
  • "Excellent conference. The clinical info was beneficial, as well as the personal testimonies."
  • Dr. Riley's presentation was good. I would like to hear more from him."
  • "The family panel was extremely poignant and effective. Dr. Riley's presentation was very informative."
  • "I would like to invite Teresa and John to speak to our Head Start program."
  • "Dr. Riley is a superb speaker."
  • "Great parent panel!"
  • "I know so much more now. I thought I knew all about FAS, but now I realize how much I had to learn."
  • "I am in awe of Mr. McMullen's ability to share in his time of grief."
  • "The family panel was informative. Johnny's thoughts on what it is like to have FAS were exceptional and informative."
  • "You did an excellent job planning this workshop. I hope this becomes an annual conference."
  • "Thank you. The presentations were excellent, especially those regarding the sexual issues that adolescents encounter."
  • "What a fabulous conference. I was so delighted by the attendance. John was amazing! As you well know, no one in that room will ever be the same after hearing his presentation. The whole thing was a huge success."

New Awareness

  • There is more to FAS than just physical characteristics
  • Most children with FAS disorders look "normal"
  • FAS is primarily an information processing disorder
  • Documentation of drinking during pregnancy is difficult to obtain
  • Even "light" drinking could cause problems in the developing baby's brain
  • ADHD is sometimes more than just ADHD
  • FAS = lost potential
  • Not all people with FAS have mental retardation
  • FAS interferes with an individual's ability to parent children

Arizona Dreams

  • Prevention program for all teens in Arizona schools
  • Prevention programs for pre-teens
  • Advocacy services for families raising children with FAS disorders
  • Pediatricians who are educated and involved in diagnosing FAS
  • Diagnosis of children with PEA (Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol) to help identify the 90% of children who do not get a diagnosis of FAS
  • Community partnerships with all service provider agencies
  • Removal of cultural barriers around alcohol and FAS issues
  • Networks of support for parents and providers
  • Education that begins at home with healthy role models
  • Education through mass media about FAS
  • A new hit song about FAS that wins a monetary award to benefit FAS cause
  • De-glamorization of alcohol, to teach children the reality of alcohol as a drug that is dangerous and destructive

Obstacles to Overcome

  • Lack of funding for intervention services
  • Lack of insurance coverage for needed services
  • Time and energy constraints - burnout
  • Lack of support for families (birth and adoptive)
  • Lack of education and understanding among educators
  • Chaos in the classroom
  • Misunderstanding of FAS behavior
  • Inadequate treatment for mothers who might be alcohol affected
  • Unrealistic expectations of children and adults with FAS disorders
  • Denial on the part of drinking mothers, community personnel, medical professionals, government bureaucrats, and society in general. There is denial that FAS is a major health problem. There is denial that FAS without facial characteristics is still FAS. There is denial that anything other than alcoholic drinking is a problem. There is denial that responsibility for FAS lies with others besides the pregnant woman. There is denial that alcohol is a drug.
  • Inability to look up that river called denial

Photo Gallery

Photos from this conference.

Conference Report

Printable version of this Conference Report in Word Doc format (224K) - This includes photos and should print out two pages, doubled sided, with half inch margins.

News Article

Read about the conference in the Tucson Citizen


Site Sponsors:
FAS Community Resource Center and Arizona Department of Health
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