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National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March has been recognized as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month since 1987. Then-President Ronald Reagan at that time called for the American people to build understanding and encouragement, and to provide new opportunities for people who have developmental difficulties and disabilities.

People with developmental disabilities are capable to leading fulfilling, productive lives, but may need help from society and government.

The initial proclamation came about, in part, as a result of the recognition that the words “retarded” and “retardation” had come to have negative and hurtful connotations. In addition to proclaiming March “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month,” the name of the agency dealing with issues related to developmental disabilities was changed from “The Office of Mental Retardation” to its current title, The Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

In recent years, current President Barack Obama has signed a law, dubbed Rosa’s Law, which removes terms such as “retarded” from previous federal legislation. Of course, changing terminology does not, in and of itself, adequately address the complex issues surrounding how we are to help those with developmental disabilities. Still, the recognition that developmentally disabled persons are worthy of respect and value, and should be able to expect to avoid derogatory labeling by their own government is a step in the right direction.

There are a number of organizations on all levels of government (federal, state, local) which promote understanding and opportunities for developmentally disabled persons. Employers are increasingly likely to give people with disabilities an opportunity to find meaningful work, in large part due to government incentives.

As we recognize National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, there are many things that each of us can do to help. Some of these include:

  • Helping provide employment opportunities for disabled persons.
  • Volunteering at charitable organizations which promote understanding and opportunities for developmentally disabled individuals.
  • Donating to organizations which promote the welfare of developmentally disabled people.
  • Taking the time to educate ourselves about the needs of the developmentally disabled in our area.
  • Making sure that your own words and actions are respectful of those with developmental disabilities. Be aware of the harmful impact of words like “retarded” and refuse to use them.

Many who have developmental disabilities qualify for Social Security Disability benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicare. The disability application process is often long and drawn out, and involves proving that the disabled person is not capable of performing gainful full time work.

Those who care for developmentally disabled persons who want to look into the possibility of collecting Social Security disability benefits should consult a Social Security disability attorney. Not only can a Social Security disability lawyer give you sound advice regarding whether or not your loved one’s disability is likely to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, but his representation can also significantly improve your odds of having your disability claim accepted.

This month, join our government and charitable organizations in taking some time to recognize those around you who struggle with developmental disabilities. Together, we can make a difference in our communities.