Destiny Discover
St. Thomas students form Peer Support Group

Eddie Bunkowsky wants you to know that he has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

The condition occurs when a birthmother drinks alcohol while pregnant, and as a result, Eddie sometimes struggles with remembering instructions, recognizing danger or grasping concepts.

However, Eddie is not alone. In fact, nine out of every 1000 babies born in Canada have FASD. (Health Canada)

But Eddie isn't looking for sympathy. In fact, Eddie wants everyone to know he's just like any other kid who enjoys having fun and playing with friends. His favourite is watching wrestling on television. But he does want others to simply be aware, so they can offer a hand in case he needs help clarifying something.

"When you have a disability like FASD you need someone to help you when you are confused or unsure of something," he said.

“Sometimes a teacher might give instructions to their class and say, ‘take out your book, turn to page three, go to paragraph four,’ and Eddie will still be processing ‘take out your book,’” added mother Mary Ann Bunkowsky, who emphasized why having a strong support base is crucial for Eddie’s success.

That’s why this year a Peer Support Group was started at his school, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Elementary.

The group consists of two of Eddie’s closest friends, fellow Grade 6 students James Bottineau and Owen Young who have taken leadership in making sure Eddie is safe and on track in social and academic areas.

“The key is to be patient and understanding, and give lots of praise,” said Mary Ann during presentation on FASD to the group. So far the group has done an outstanding job, she added.

Next year, Eddie will be in Grade 7 and participate in rotary classes. This might mean he will be separated from his support base so the group will use their voices to educate peers on FASD just in case they can’t always be there.

"If more people know, they can help," said James.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Bunkowsky
Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Bunkowsky