Raising awareness for developmental disabilities
March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Discover its importance and what you can do to support and promote this advocacy.
Physical, learning, language, and behavior abilities can differ from person to person. People with developmental disabilities may have issues in one or more of these areas.
National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a yearly event. It’s aimed at raising awareness and promoting inclusion for people with developmental disabilities.
This annual campaign is an opportunity to inform the public about people with disabilities. It’s a great time to share their challenges and accomplishments. And to advocate for their rights and needs.
What are developmental disabilities?
Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions that affect a person’s ability to:
- Interact with others
- Perform daily activities
These disabilities are present at birth and seen in childhood. They’re usually caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors. All these can affect how the brain and nervous system work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of six children in the US has developmental disabilities. And it could be one or more of the following:
This is depicted by limits in academic functioning and adaptive behaviors. It may affect a person’s communication, self-care, and social skills.
Autism spectrum disorders
These disorders involve difficulties in communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. People with ASD have different ways of learning, moving, and showing their interests.
This is a group of motor disabilities caused by damage to the developing brain. It often affects movement, muscle tone, and coordination. Most people with this condition need assistance in eating, bathing, and more.
This is a genetic condition caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. It can lead to learning disabilities, developmental delays, and other health problems. Many but not all people with down syndrome have similar appearances.
Fetal alcohol syndrome
This is a condition caused by exposure to alcohol while in the womb, often by mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant. This can lead to academic issues, behavior problems, and physical deformities.
This is a genetic condition caused by a mutation in the FMR1 gene. This gene produces a protein needed for proper brain development and function. Lack of it causes learning problems, challenging behaviors, and physical and mental issues.
Why is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month important?
Developmental disabilities awareness is crucial for several reasons:
Promoting inclusion and reducing stigma
Raising awareness can help reduce the stigma toward people with developmental disabilities. It may also eliminate the negative perception against them. And when these happen, it can create more inclusive communities.
Improving access to resources and support
Many people with developmental disabilities need specialized services to achieve their full potential. In order to do that, they need proper access to education, health care, and job options.
Advocating for policy change
Awareness campaigns can help push policy changes for people with developmental disabilities. This way, you can protect their rights and help sustain their needs.
Empowering people with disabilities
Raising awareness can help make adults and children with developmental disabilities stronger and more confident. How? By providing them with a platform to:
- Share their stories and advocate for their own needs
- Learn new life skills and improve their abilities
- Take part in activities in communities and organizations
- Access technology and assistive devices
- Seek counseling or personal help
How can you observe disabilities awareness month?
There are several ways you can take part in this important event:
Learn more about developmental disabilities
Take the time to learn about the different developmental disabilities. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to support and advocate for them.
Volunteer your time
Volunteer your time at a local organization or join a community event. There are many organizations in the US that help people with disabilities, including:
- National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
- National Disability Institute
- American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities
Check their websites for the latest updates and to find out how you can help them.
Share your support on social media
Social media is a powerful tool for helping raise awareness about anything. Share informative articles, statistics, and personal stories. Here are a few tips on how to promote online:
- Use relevant hashtags
- Share stories to help people understand the challenges of people with developmental disabilities
- Share informative content, such as articles, videos, and infographics
- Make your content accessible by adding captions, alt text, and other accessibility features
- Engage with your audience by responding to comments and messages
Attend an event
Many groups and communities organize events to celebrate National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Some examples of events you may want to do include nature walks, fun runs, and art exhibits.
Events can be a great opportunity to meet people with disabilities. You may also meet their family members, caregivers, and professionals in the field. It may even ignite a deeper passion in you for this advocacy.
Advocate for policy changes
Urge local officials to support policies that improve the lives of people with disabilities. Encourage them to raise funding for disability services and programs, and more.
The goal of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is to promote understanding, acceptance, and inclusion of people with disabilities. It’s not easy but it’s very rewarding. Any action you take, big or small, can make a difference in achieving this.
You can help private and public organizations work to better understand developmental disabilities. By studying how common they are, you can help understand their risk factors. And by promoting early identification, you can help children and families get the help and support they need.