Mum details toll of fetal alcohol disorder

Finbar O'Mallon
The alcohol industry is trying to water down proposed warning labels about drinking while pregnant

Cheryl walks around her home with a set of keys to doors, cupboards and even the fridge.

Her adopted son is so heavily impacted by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that many things have to be locked away in order to keep him safe.

Cheryl, who asked for her last name not to be published, told a parliamentary inquiry into the disorder about the high level of care her son needs every day.

"Can you imagine living with a set of keys in your pocket for every set of moves in your home," she said on Wednesday.

Her testimony followed the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education sounding the alarm on the alcohol industry's lobbying.

Chief executive Caterina Giorgi told the inquiry a soon-to-be mandatory warning label on alcohol was an important part of efforts to bring down rates of FASD.

The label will be red, with the message: "Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby".

But she said the industry and lobby groups were trying to water down the label.

"Any changes to those key features will make the label ineffective," she said.

Experts said there needed to be better screening of alcohol use during pregnancy by doctors and more data collected to quantify the issue.

Cheryl and her partner adopted their son as a baby, later realising he had been exposed to alcohol by his biological mother while she was pregnant.

Now her son has significant behavioural issues and can switch from being verbally and physically abusive to calm in minutes.

Initially they had been told to treat him as if he had autism, which only made it worse, before later getting a diagnosis for FASD.

Her son has an extremely high IQ and a passion for photography.

"He loves us and we love him, this is what drives us to fight for him as a family," Cheryl said.

There was little understanding about how to diagnose or treat the disorder among medical professionals in Australia, Cheryl said.