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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Autism is a developmental disability
The title says it all. March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. What should that mean for us?

What is a Developmental Disability?


The definition of developmental disability changes slightly from state to state (and province to province, in Canada), but the definition used by the Developmental Disabilities Act of the United States is as follows:

"The term 'developmental disability' means a severe, chronic disability of an individual 5 years of age or older that:

1. Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments;
2. Is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
3. Is likely to continue indefinitely;
5. Results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity;
(i) Self-care;
(ii) Receptive and expressive language;
(iii) Learning;
(iv) Mobility;
(v) Self-direction;
(vi) Capacity for independent living; and
(vii) Economic self-sufficiency.

5. Reflects the individual's need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, supports, or other assistance that is of lifelong or extended duration and is individually planned and coordinated, except that such term, when applied to infants and young children means individuals from birth to age 5, inclusive, who have substantial developmental delay or specific congenital or acquired conditions with a high probability of resulting in developmental disabilities if services are not provided."

(From http://www.md-council.org/resources/dd_definition.html)

Here are some examples of developmental disabilities:

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Epilepsy

  • Autism

  • Hearing loss

  • Down syndrome

  • Spinal injury

  • Brain injury

Developmental Disability Fun Fact, in Honour of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month


Having a developmental disability doesn't necessarily mean that a person has an intellectual disability.

I'm surprised by how many people who work in my field don't know this. Many of the people with conditions on the list above are very intelligent. There's even a debate within some agencies that support people with autism whether they should be supporting individuals who have it without supporting documentation that these individuals have intellectual disabilities as well.

What Will Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Mean for You?


I think that, for me, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month will me doing pretty much what I try to do already, with a focus on developmental disabilities - raising awareness of what they are, celebrating the achievements of people who have them, and continuing to bust stereotypes where I can of people with developmental disabilities. Because it would be really nice if society got to the point where we didn't need a month for people with developmental disabilities, because they're just...people. Don't you agree?

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