March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month, a great time to focus on learning more about what you can do to create a community where people with DD are included in all aspects of life and are treated with dignity and respect.
What is DD?
A DD is a lifelong condition that shows up during the early years of a person’s life that impacts the brain, body, or both. It may or may not impact a person’s intellectual ability.
Some common examples include autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and epilepsy. Hearing or vision loss can also be included if those things happened in the early years of life.
According to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, Texas is home to more than 485,000 children and adults with DD. It’s possible you know a person with DD – maybe it’s a neighbor, co-worker, friend, or family member.
Who Are People with DD?
People with DD are just like anyone. They have hopes and dreams, preferences and interests. You will find that you have more in common with people with DD than you think.
Many adults with DD are capable of making their own decisions and living independently in the community. Some may need support – but don’t we all need help or advice at times? They might live in their own home or in an apartment with friends, have a job or a career where they work alongside their nondisabled peers, or use public or private transportation to get around town and to run errands. Adults with DD do many of the same things adults without disabilities do, like watch TV, go to church, and scroll through social media.
Children with and without DD have a lot in common, too. The life of a child with DD can be like that of other kids and can include playing and having fun, learning in the classroom alongside nondisabled classmates, participating in sports, and eventually going to college.
How to Interact with People with DD
When communicating with people with DD, treat them with dignity and respect like you would anyone else. If you’re having a conversation, talk to the person, not to the person who may be with her. Also, some people may need extra time to collect their thoughts when responding. Be patient and let the person finish her thought and don’t try to complete her sentence for her.
If you are ever unsure about how to interact or communicate with a person with DD, you can ask him what his preference is. And remember, just because someone may be unable to speak, everyone is capable of communicating in some way, so take time to determine what that is for that person.
What They Wish You Knew
Ola Ojewumi, a writer and a patient advocate, developed a heart condition as a young child. “I wish my nondisabled friends knew the hardest part about being disabled isn’t my disability itself. It’s the way society treats you because of it that’s most challenging,” said Ola. “We live in a world that is inaccessible and doesn’t prioritize the inclusion of people with disabilities. When you look at me, I want you to see my disability and all that comes with it. Disability isn’t a bad thing. It’s a natural part of the human condition.”
What Can You Do?
You can raise awareness about DD and about how people with DD are just like everyone else. An easy way to get started is by sharing this blog post on social media. Also, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram so you can stay informed – and raise awareness – all year.