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May 25, 2012

FASD Virtual Community builds community links with students across Canada

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Caregivers, educators, professionals and others affected by the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) can now connect online to share information, resources and support, thanks to a new FASD Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP) spearheaded by Lethbridge College.

“We’re building partnerships and connections. It’s a place where everybody can meet online, and contribute to create a supportive community,” says VCoP founder, Kimber Norbury-Sulin of Lethbridge College.

“I wanted to find a way to link people to each other, so they could network and have the type of experience that you get when you’re an on-campus student, meeting with your instructors, other students and building relationships with the larger professional community,” Norbury-Sulin says.

Norbury-Sulin is the program co-ordinator for Lethbridge College’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Education and Disability and Community Rehabilitation programs. Both programs are offered through eCampusAlberta.

Norbury-Sulin says she developed the VCoP along with a team of technical experts because she was continually fielding inquiries from people across Canada seeking support and resources about FASD, and wanted to find a way to connect them to each other.

“I saw a need,” she says. “If students, service providers and caregivers could join a community, then they could reach out to each other and it would create better supports and services in their own geographic communities.”

Lethbridge College provided the funding to build the site, and the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) came onboard as a partner to facilitate a platform launch meeting, which took place May 10 at Lethbridge College.

The site’s easy-to-use platform offers a variety of tools. Users can share files, participate in live chats, create events and build or join groups. For example, there is already a group for researchers, one for teachers and a group for foster care providers.

Red Deer resident Terri Grills, who is taking the FASD program online at Lethbridge College, logs into the virtual community website almost daily to find out about workshops, job opportunities and news, as well as to seek support. She is a foster parent of children with FASD, and the mother of a child with FASD.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about being as educated as I can about the most current knowledge, and about sharing that knowledge with others,” Grills says.

“The online community is another way for me to do that, and to reach out to others who are doing the same in their communities across the country.”

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