March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, proclaimed 33 years ago by President Ronald Reagan to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities.” The annual campaign specifically seeks to address the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life and the barriers that these Individuals may face in connecting with those communities. There are also many stories shared which demonstrate that those challenges don’t preclude a happy, successful life. It is out of this campaign that the slogan, “See Me for Me!” grew several years ago – an appeal to look beyond an Individual’s disability and see them as the person they are.
According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, an intellectual disability is characterized by significant limitations in both cognitive functioning and adaptive behavior, which impacts many everyday social and practical skills. Developmental disabilities in general are defined as a group of conditions that are due to an impairment in the physical, learning, language or behavioral areas. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, or “IDD,” often co-occur and may be physical, cognitive or both. Beginning early in life, during the developmental period, they are usually apparent before the age of 18, and typically affect day-to-day functioning throughout the Individual’s lifetime.
With an emphasis on inclusion in every aspect of life, support programs such as Evergreen Service Providers’ residential program, have been developed to integrate IDD-challenged adults into a home setting, the lives of a host family, and the community. These Individuals and their host families are matched through Community Centered Boards which have expertise at meeting the needs of these unique Individuals. In addition to working with the Individual, the Evergreen Service Providers staff works closely with involved family members and Community Centered Board staff members to create customized plans designed to enable each IDD adult in their program to reach their maximum potential personally, and in terms of being a member of the community.
An inclusive community is one in which IDD Individuals have the freedom and equal opportunities to fully participate. Some of those opportunities include:
- The option to live where and with whom the Individual chooses
- Having meaningful relationships with friends and family
- Worshiping, if and where they choose
- The chance to work and earn a living wage
- Involvement in community programs and activities which are of personal interest
- Education related to personal growth or the development of job skills
- Access to information that is needed to make informed choices
- Participation in the responsibilities of citizenship such as voting and paying taxes
You can help make your community more inclusive by educating those with whom you live and work about IDD and the Individuals who live with its challenges, or by hiring IDD Individuals to work in your business. Work with the organizations in which you participate to be more proactive in inviting IDD Individuals to join in. And when you have the opportunity to meet IDD Individuals, put the slogan, “See Me For Me,” into practice and get to know the Individual. You will find remarkable talents, unique perspectives, and big hearts that will enrich your life.
Evergreen Service Providers has been serving the IDD community since 1991. More than a service provider, they build lasting relationships with Individuals and their families. Executive Director, Barbara Myers, shares that, “We work to ensure dignity, stability and growth for IDD adults. Our mission is to help adults facing developmental disabilities improve their quality of life and achieve their goals by connecting them with the perfect host home setting – one that will promote lasting growth in mind, body, and spirit.”
Myers assures the uniquely- challenged Individuals who are the focus of their work that, “We are here for the long haul, to walk with you on each step of your journey.” To learn more about IDD or becoming a host home provider, visit www.EvergreenServiceProviders.com.