Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Every March, our nation celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

This special month exists to help raise awareness about the inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in all aspects of life. It also serves to remind people that there are still many barriers that disabled people face in our communities.

Through social media posts, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) and other groups share facts about the challenges, contributions, and successes that people with an intellectual disability experience in their lives as individuals and as a group. 

This group is not a small one; over six million people in the United States have developmental disabilities.

However, many people do not know anyone with an intellectual disability. As a result, some feel uncomfortable around disabled people because they don't know how to interact with them. Breaking these types of barriers is the first step in complete inclusion for this group. 

If you'd like to learn more about how you can make people with developmental disabilities feel welcome and included, read on. Here are four things you should know.

1. Talk to Them Like Adults

People with intellectual disabilities are regular people. Don't speak down to them. They enjoy conversations on all topics and are eager to converse with you. Speak slowly and clearly for understanding.

Expect to get a lot of questions, but if the questions get too personal, feel free to tell them that you don't feel comfortable answering. 

Ask them their thoughts and give them time to answer. Don't interrupt and don't put words in their mouth. 

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a great time to practice this. If you encounter someone with a developmental disability, take some time to chat with him or her. 

2. Ask If You Can Help

Just like if you meet someone in a wheelchair if you encounter someone with an intellectual disability who appears to need help with someone, ask if you can help first. Don't assume that the person needs assistance.

Like anyone, people with developmental disabilities enjoy doing things on their own; it might just take them a little longer to complete a task.

3. Focus on Strengths, Not Weaknesses

It's often easy to see how someone with an intellectual disability is different from you, but try to focus on your similarities instead. In that same vein, you should focus on the individuals' strengths, rather than his or her weaknesses.

Lift others up rather than putting them down. Help build their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth whenever you can. 

4. Take Time to Explain

People with developmental disabilities benefit when the steps of activity are explained before they happen.

If you are helping someone with an intellectual disability complete a task or participate in a fun activity, take time to explain what is about to happen, and the next one or two things that will happen next, too.

Celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a great time to think about ways we can be more inclusive when it comes to the people with developmental disabilities in our communities, but it's something we should think about all year round. Hopefully, the ideas in this post will help you next time you encounter a person with this type of disability and you will be able to make a new and fantastic friend in short order. Good luck! 

If you'd like to read more great articles about helping people with all kinds of disabilities, check out our Disability Rights section for more. 

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