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03/6/2023 “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” By Kaylee McGrath

Updated: Mar 10

Personal Opening Statement:

Sharing awareness and writing about this important disability is very special and hits close to home for me because as most of my readers know, I have a developmental disability (processing, learning, and Dyscalculia). I published an article about Developmental Disability Awareness Month last year on 3/14/2022, feel free to read that article as well. This year, I felt strongly to write about it again with updates and my additional personal progress.

Observed in the Month of March:

National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (D.D.A.M.), is observed throughout the month of March. D.D.A.M is a nationwide event to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities and addresses the barriers that those with disabilities face. Inclusion is necessary since about 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability. D.D.A.M. is about understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society and making sure everybody has the same opportunities in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities.

Class of Disability:

This specific class of disabilities can refer to impairments in learning and behavior, such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and impairments in physical and/or intellectual functioning such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Down syndrome. This specific campaign seeks to raise awareness about including people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. It also creates awareness of the difficulties that people with disabilities still face in fitting into the communities in which they live as well as in the workforce.

History and Facts on Developmental Disabilities:

· Before the 19th century, people with developmental disabilities were treated violently and lived in poor, unhygienic environments. Many were “passed on in life,” a practice of carting off people to be dropped off in other towns. More awareness about developmental disabilities spread in this century both in England and in the United States.

· Back in the 1960s, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I.D.D.) were regarded as ‘mentally disabled,’ and often transferred to the back rooms of family homes or underfunded state-run institutions open to various neglect and abuse.

· In the early 1960s, President Kennedy leveraged his family’s personal experience with his sister Rosemary’s disability and used the power of the Presidency to bring attention to the needs of people experiencing life with an intellectual and developmental disability (I.D.D.). He organized a Presidential Panel focused on the exclusion from education, employment, and community participation suffered by people with I.D.D.

· The D.D. Act of 1984 set up much of the system we all experience today. The emphasis on goals for services for people with developmental disabilities is “to achieve their maximum through increased independence, productivity, and integration into the community.” State Developmental Disabilities Councils were implemented in all states and territories. These were intended to provide additional training to individuals, families, and service delivery systems. They were to develop a statewide strategic plan for services over the next five years to build on community needs.

· In 1987, President Reagan proclaimed March as National Developmental Disability Awareness Month to focus awareness on the potential of citizens with I.D.D. to work, contribute, and enjoy typical lives.

· The landmark year was in 1990, as President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The act was amended again to move from the goals of independence, integration, and productivity toward interdependence, inclusion, and recognition of individual contributions. Training opportunities were expanded to include professionals, paraprofessionals, family members, and individuals with developmental disabilities and advocate for innovative public policy and community acceptance.

Personal Closing Statement:

Since my previous published article last year, I have not only developed my position as a blogger but also learned how to research and conduct preliminary interviews with interesting and extremely knowledgeable guest speakers for online events for the Education and Advocacy team where I work. Getting the courage to engage in the process of researching guest speakers and interviewing was something I could not do, even two years ago. I’ve also started my own small photography and multimedia business and often my work is featured at various monthly art exhibitions. Having a developmental disability as well as other disabilities is something that you “OWN for LIFE”! Unfortunately, having a disability shows no discrimination and has no rules of race, gender, age, rich or poor, or if you are handsome or pretty. It is up to the individual to accept what you have, move forward, and help yourself because no one can do it for you…except help you with the services you need to succeed. It is also up to the individual to use the learning tools you are taught to have those skills work for you to make you successful. Don’t worry about how long it takes you to learn to do something, how many times someone needs to explain something to you, or how you need to learn a task. I learn by repetition, one on one personal training and assistance, YouTube videos, and occasionally I take various adult night school courses.

What businesses and everyone should know is, individuals who have a developmental disability (and other various disabilities) are most definitely employable. The disabled can and will continue to offer a unique purpose not only in the community but also in the workplace. Just because we may learn differently, sometimes speak slower, show a delay in responding to questions, use a wheelchair, can’t drive, need necessary accommodations or equipment in the workplace, perform jobs that others may not want to do, we can, will, and want to do our share as other non-disabled citizens. We also want to continue contributing to society, the economy, and the future growth to our country. Sometimes hiring a disabled person may bring a company their best employee. It is a fact that hiring a disabled person will provide the individual with a purpose in life and they will accomplish financial and living independence, as this is the main goal for all individuals with disabilities.

Source of Information: Personal Experiences and Various Google Searches

Until Next Time, Stay Safe and Well!

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