March is Developmental Disabilities Month — the time of year when individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, friends and advocates double their efforts to raise awareness about the whopping 17 percent of Americans ages 3-17 who live with developmental disabilities.
What are developmental disabilities? According to the Centers for Disease Control, “developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.”
The label “developmental disabilities” covers a wide range of conditions from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders to cerebral palsy; muscular dystrophy and fragile X syndrome to speech and language disorders; intellectual disabilities; Tourette’s syndrome and visual impairment.
Despite medical advances, in recent years, developmental disabilities have become more pervasive. Though there’s no consensus on why this is the case, many believe the increase may be the result of better diagnostic tools. That’s a good thing, says Zero To Three, an organization dedicated to giving all children a strong start in life.
“Developmental delays can be addressed best when they are discovered early,” says Zero To Three’s website. No matter where in the United States you live, the federally administrated Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities must “provide services and supports to children birth through 2 years old at risk for developmental delays or disabilities. These services can include speech–language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, assistive technology, and more.”
Research shows that when early intervention is provided to young children with developmental disabilities, they really make strides. In fact, says Zero To Three, “One in 3 infants and toddlers who received early intervention services did not later present with a disability or require special education in preschool.”
During Developmental Disabilities Month, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) has partnered with the Association for University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN) to create the 2020 Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Resource Guide and social media campaign. The guide is full of content about developmental disabilities that can be shared with the public using the hashtag #DDawareness2020. For the second year, NACDD has selected two logos based on artwork by Eileen Schofield and Jamila Rahimi, that can be used along with your postings. To download them, visit the DDAM webpage.
According to the NACDD’s website, materials for distribution during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month are still being collected. If you have resources including “videos, toolkits, news articles, photos, personal stories, promising practices, etc.” that you believe would be of interest to the disabilities community, please submit them to Bob McWilliams at firstname.lastname@example.org.