6 Ways to Recognize Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March 17, 2020

6 Ways to Recognize Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

While the spotlight seems firmly on the coronavirus pandemic these days, we wanted to take the time to raise awareness of another important issue: developmental disabilities and how they impact individuals, families, and communities. March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, so we wanted to take some time to share some ideas with you around this topic.

  1. Learn: Even if you have a loved one with a developmental disability, there is still much to learn about other types of disabilities that people experience and how these can affect individuals and their families. As you know, every individual with different, and even those who share the same diagnoses (such as autism) generally have vast differences in how their disabilities manifest. Visit websites that explain various disabilities, especially those that affect people you know in your own community, so you can better understand how these individuals experience the world.

Explore the local resources that are available in your area and take the time to understand the needs of those with developmental disabilities in your community. Inquire as to how you might be able to help. Ask local programs what their biggest challenges are and task yourself and your family with brainstorming ways to assist on a grassroots level.

  1. Teach: Perhaps the most important step you can take is to model compassion, self-awareness, and love to your children, no matter their ages. Ensure that they understand that individuals who look or behave in a way they aren’t familiar with are just like your children, with interests, feelings, and personalities that are unique to them.


Rather than simply giving a hushed, “Don’t stare!” if your child notices someone who appears different from them, take a few quiet minutes to educate your child on the uniqueness of all individuals and explain, if you know, why the individual looked or behaved in an unfamiliar way. Be sure to use easy-to-understand language and avoid overwhelming your child with too much information. Instead, keep it simple and focus on helping your child achieve empathy.


  1. Include: Remember that those with developmental disabilities are highly unique individuals with likes, dislikes, and distinctive personalities. Many have hopes, dreams, interests, and hobbies. It’s essential that every individual who wants to contribute to and participate in society in meaningful ways be offered opportunities to do so. This sense of community and usefulness forms the basis for our humanity.

With this in mind, consider ways that you might be able to include individuals with developmental disabilities in your own life. You might suggest that your employer establish a supported-employment agreement with its local Arc program. If you have children, encourage them to connect with their peers, especially those with disabilities who can sometimes be or feel excluded. Connect with parents of children with developmental disabilities and suggest a playdate or coffee date. Be an ear for them or simply a distraction from their day-to-day.

  1. Assist: Reach out to families of individuals with developmental disabilities and offer to assist with tasks such as grocery shopping. You might say, “I’m running out to the store and wondered if I could pick any thing up for you.” Or ask if you can help out with basic care tasks, enabling the caregiver to some much-needed down time or the chance to run his or her own errands. At the same time, you’d be offering the individual with developmental disabilities the opportunity to socialize and enjoy your companionship.


  1. Protect: The intersection of the coronavirus and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month shines a light on an important issue. As the media discusses the plight of the elderly and the immunocompromised as the virus spreads, we at SCARC encourage you to also be aware of how easily those with developmental disabilities can pick up germs of any kind. You can do your part to protect others by following the usual edicts: stay home when you’re sick, wash your hands regularly, and cough or sneeze into your elbow.

But you should consider taking it a step further: Don’t visit loved ones with developmental disabilities when you’re feeling sick, even if you just have a cold! It can be easier for these individuals to pick up illnesses, as they may not have the same awareness around avoiding germs. Some have compulsive habits, such as sucking on their hands or shirt sleeves. Others put items in their mouths. Protect those you love by “visiting” them via Skype or FaceTime or simply making an old-fashioned phone call. While these suggestions may be of particular importance now, it’s sound advice for any time of year.

  1. Share: Now that we’ve shared some of our ideas for recognizing Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we’d like to know: do you have any of your own thoughts to share? If so, we’d love to hear about them! Let us know by reaching out to us on Facebook or commenting below. Of course, you can always reach out to our president and CEO, Dr. Richard Lecher, with any questions or comments you might have. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!