Throughout the month of March, KVC is joining the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities and other organizations in celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This month-long campaign emphasizes the roles individuals with developmental disabilities play in our society, the importance of community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and the challenges they still face in connecting to communities.
Join us in this initiative by posting about Developmental Disabilities Awareness from your social media channels and include the hashtag #DDAwareness19.
What are developmental disabilities?
Developmental disabilities (DDs) are a diverse group of conditions caused by impairment in physical, learning, language or behavioral areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period (from birth to age 22), may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.
Examples of DDs:
- Sensory impairments
- Communication impairments
- Neurological impairments
- Learning disabilities
- Fragile X Syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
What causes a DD?
Most DDs are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors. For some people with DDs, physicians can pinpoint the cause, but for most people with a diagnosis, the cause is unknown.
Examples of causes include:
- Complications during birth
- Infections a mother might get during pregnancy
- Infections a baby might get very early in life
- Exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins like lead
How common are developmental disabilities?
According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), about 1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a DD between 2006 to 2008. They also found that parent-reported DDs increased 17.1% from 1997 to 2008, meaning 1.8 million more children had DDs by 2008 than did a decade earlier. For example, autism increased 289.5% over that period.
This data tells us that DDs are common and will likely to continue becoming more common over time. It also further highlights the importance for more specialized health, education and social services for people with DDs.
The Importance of Community Inclusion
Everyone benefits from having meaningful relationships in life. Without them, we feel isolated and alone. Outside of school and work, many of the ways we meet people and form these bonds involve going out into the community and participating in various social activities such as volunteering, faith-based practices, intramural sports, advocacy groups and community events.
In addition to forming relationships that are essential for connection and happiness, community inclusion provides numerous other benefits in our lives, and especially for those who have DDs.
Some of the benefits include:
- Increased self-esteem
- Finding new interests/hobbies; expanding activities to enhance life
- Promoting health
- Growing skills for greater independence
- Expanding social circles and informal supports
Also, while community inclusion overall is important, a big aspect of our goal is to achieve meaningful inclusion—giving individuals with DDs opportunities to take on larger roles that demonstrate their abilities and give them a greater sense of self-worth.
How You Can Support Community Inclusion for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
One big way you can help is by providing direct care, such as becoming a Shared Living provider (formerly known as Extended Family Homes). The Shared Living program gives individuals with intellectual and/or DDs a safe, loving and structured living environment so they can learn life skills for independent living. Shared Living Providers also aide in helping these individuals develop connections in the community and find opportunities for inclusion.
Direct caretaking isn’t right for everyone though, or maybe it just isn’t the right time in your life. There are many other ways you can support community inclusion, such as:
- Advocacy: Create awareness by sharing information on social media, in a blog, or word-of-mouth.
- Fundraising: Participate in fundraising events, such as the Owl Ride in Omaha on July 13.
- Helping with day-to-day tasks: Run errands for individuals with disabilities and their caregivers to give them more time in their day to participate in community activities.
- Share your talents: Volunteer to tutor, mentor, or teach a special skill.
- Encourage others to help: Read this blog for ideas on how to get your congregation more involved.
Resources for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and their Caregivers
- Learn about advocacy and legislative initiatives through The Arc.
- Read this article for travel ideas and learn about the best National Parks for people with disabilities.
- Visit the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities’ website for council contact information in every state.
- Visit the Nebraska website for Developmental Disability Services for various resources throughout the state.
- Join People First of Nebraska – Advocacy For and By People with Disabilities.
- Utilize KVC’s Shared Living program for skill-building and community resources.
Read Real Stories from KVC Shared Living Providers:
Shared Living providers offer a safe, loving and structured living environments where clients can learn life skills for independent living and form community connections. Read the stories below to hear from current Shared Living providers about their experiences and why they love this work!
- A Remarkable Life: Caring for Individuals with Disabilities
- Why Caring for a Person with Disabilities is So Rewarding