Welcome to March! Did you know that March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month? It’s a wonderful opportunity to focus on the great things our schools, communities, and families can accomplish when kids of all abilities play together, work together, and participate in all facets of daily life.
More importantly, it’s an apt time to amplify awareness of inclusion for people with disabilities, share their stories as well as ensure that our organizations are not leaving disability out of the larger conversation on diversity and inclusion.
In honor of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we’re excited to let you know how Kids Included Together (KIT) can help you celebrate with disability inclusion resources, our latest free courses, online training from KIT Academy, and more.
Dive in below, and then start planning truly meaningful and impactful disability-inclusive activities this month!
When was National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month designated?
Congress passed Public Law 100-146 in 1987, designating every March as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM).
President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation setting aside the month to increase public awareness of developmental disabilities and to promote the dignity, equality, and self-determination of all individuals with such disabilities. He signed the first proclamation on March 2, 1988.
Over thirty years later, DDAM continues to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. For example, in this year’s run-up to DDAM, President Joe Biden has looked at an economy shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic and has called upon business leaders to ensure that our post-COVID economic recovery is an inclusive one – a recovery where young people with developmental disabilities can find fulfilling careers, apprenticeships, and futures in every industry.
What are developmental disabilities?
Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions that appear early in life and include autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairments, certain physical impairments, and other developmental delays.
These conditions are often identified in individuals before the age of 22 and come about any time from a child’s prenatal development (conception through birth) through adolescence. Developmental disabilities may impact day-to-day functioning and can last throughout an individual’s lifetime.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Developmental disabilities occur among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six, or about 17%, of children aged 3 through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities.”
According to the National Disability Navigator, the most common developmental disability in the United States is intellectual disability (ID). There are about 7 million people in the United States with ID. Globally, between 1-3% of the world population has ID – which amounts to over 200 million people.
Intellectual disability, however, is a term that covers a wide range of diagnoses including Fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome, etc. People with intellectual disabilities need a wide range of support and services.
Some people may need more support in many areas of their life, while others may need ongoing support and services in only a few areas or have a temporary need for support.
Depending on their specific needs, services and support exist to help people with ID be as independent as possible and participate fully in their communities.
Socially Responsible Language
Thankfully, in the United States, we have made significant strides to change the narrative that individuals with ID have less potential than individuals without it.
A shining example of this change is in the vocabulary we use. Intellectual disability used to commonly be called “mental retardation,” but with the passing of Rosa’s Law in 2010, which changed the language used in federal laws from “mental retardation,” to “intellectual disability.”
Changing our words and the way we speak about disability may seem like a small step, but the positive impact reverberates not just within the disability community but across all communities and throughout the country, as well.
According to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a champion of Rosa’s Law, “For far too long we have used hurtful words like ‘mental retardation’ or ‘mentally retarded’ in our federal statutes to refer to those living with intellectual disabilities. Rosa’s Law will make a greatly-needed change that should have been made well before today—and it will encourage us to treat people the way they would like to be treated.”
Indeed, the shift in terminology reflects the changing way people with disabilities choose to be viewed and referred to, but it’s even more important to remember that well before Rosa’s Law was passed, the disability rights movement sparked by the civil rights and women’s rights movements in the 1950s – 1960s, was the first to use the term “person-first” language in 1974.
The movement was about rights – civil rights, access, and inclusion. The idea was that referring to a person with a disability by their disability was dehumanizing and objectifying; that it reduced a person to their disability rather than seeing them as full human beings.
The change has been years in the making, and it continues today. That is because in addition to advocating for person-first language, some people with disabilities advocate for identity-first language. Identity-first language is a way of recognizing that disability is an integral part of someone’s identity and that there is no shame in being disabled. If you want to learn more, check out these 2 videos for more information from Annie Elainey and Cara Liebowitz.
Whether you’re an advocate, ally, colleague, or friend, what is most important is to honor the preference of the person and how they choose to self-identify. Still, even when we’ve taken significant steps in the right direction, there is more work we need to do to create an inclusive world.
This is why it’s important for people to understand the many barriers and obstacles that we still need to overcome regarding inclusion. At the same time, we need to celebrate the accomplishments of disability activism led by people with developmental disabilities at the grassroots level and the important work that they continue to do today.
If you’d like to read more about it, here are some suggested online resources:
- The KIT blog , where we post regularly on the topic of disability. Check out one of our recents blogs: Demystifying Disability Read Along.
- The New York Times covered 16 pivotal moments in the nation’s fight for disability rights.
- Disability Horizons, here you can read about 8 people with disabilities who are changing the world for disabled people.
Everyone can be inclusive. KIT can help.
You’ve heard that it takes a village to raise a child. But at KIT, we expand upon that thought to help create spaces where everyone is welcomed, valued, and supported.
Here are some of the most effective ways to support children with developmental disabilities:
- Ensure children and families have access to as many support resources as possible, including government programs (especially for low-income families), evaluation and early intervention assistance, accommodations coordination, assistive technology services, training and webinars for behavior support and inclusion, support groups, and more.
- Use a strength-based approach to make accommodations. It’s as simple as getting to know a child and learning about the things they enjoy, are good at, and in which areas they need additional support. Here’s our very own tip sheet on the Strength-Based Approach to Needs. For additional resources and to browse online courses, visit the KIT Academy Store at learnonline.kit.org/store.
- Ensure your classroom or program is welcoming to all. Is your space accessible? Are the expectations clear to all children? Is there a place for someone to take a break? Do you include disability in the diversity conversation? Is your organization truly creating and maintaining an inclusive environment? You can download our the KIT Inclusion Checklist for Programs here to assess how your organization is doing.
- Consider working with nonprofit organizations like KIT. Nonprofits in this space possess a deep advocacy for inclusion and provide disability-inclusive services, resources, training, and other related services.
KIT resources for community inclusion
Since 1997, KIT has helped child and youth development organizations and schools create and sustain inclusive practices. We’ve trained more than 130,000 people in more than 600 organizations in all 50 states and 13 countries in disability inclusion and behavior support. All of our training is organized around one goal: to help organizations foster an inclusive environment where all kids thrive.
When you partner with KIT, you gain access to disability inclusion resources that help move the needle for your programs. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, childhood educator, youth developmental specialist, or any individual/organization that works with kids, we have services that fit every need.
For National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and until the end of 2022, here’s how KIT can help you:
Disability inclusion eSeries – “I Can Be Inclusive!” is a five-course KIT Academy eSeries. The courses you’ll access are:
- Inclusion 101
- Supportive Environments
- Communicating Through Behavior
- Tips and Tools to Support Disability Inclusion
- Family Collaboration
You can purchase each course individually or you can purchase all 5 courses as a bundle for only $40 (20% off!).
FREE online inclusion resources
KIT strives to help the world learn to accept differences and see the ability in every child. By creating inclusive environments where no child is excluded, everyone benefits. That’s why we invite you to access our free resources that will help you spread the message of inclusion far and wide:
- KIT Academy: Find online disability inclusion classes and behavior support training and enroll in our latest webinars and courses.
- KIT.org Free resources: Access the latest articles, booklets, videos, and whitepapers, all focused on the topic of inclusion.
- Free download – The Inclusion Checklist for Programs: Download a comprehensive tool to assess your class or program so you can start, improve, or excel at serving kids with and without disabilities, behavior challenges, or other complex needs. Looking for other downloadable resources? Head over to the Resources section of our KIT Academy.
- KIT blog: Learn what’s new at KIT, see what our community is up to, and read the latest updates on inclusion.
Utilize more of our services to further your training.
Do you want to enroll your organization in one of our training and support packages? Or maybe you’d like to book one of KIT’s world-class inclusion leaders to speak at an event? Are you looking for a convenient way to access coaching and consulting calls where you’ll be heard and provided easy-to-use strategies?
We offer all of that and more. Find out which of these services will make DDAM more meaningful this year:
- Speaking engagements
- Training & support packages
- Coaching & consulting
- Attend a webinar – Whether you’d like to sign up for an upcoming webinar or view past, recorded webinars – you can find interesting, engaging exchanges on a wide range of inclusion-related topics – all facilitated by experienced KIT trainers. Add value to your own programs and goals and explore our webinars here: https://www.kit.org/our-services/online-training/webinars/
Here is what a few past participants have to say about our webinars and online courses:
“I am learning a lot from all these modules and I am beginning to use them in my everyday practice.” – Michelle Kokoo
“Thank you for giving me new ideas on how to assist a child in distress and also ways to help myself when things get tough.” – Emily Tarpley
“Great module! I enjoyed learning how to provide an inclusive environment and not fall into the myths in regards to inclusion.” – Mari Lucero
Our goal: inclusion for all!
KIT services and programs ultimately teach everyone how to meaningfully include children with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life. As leaders in inclusion, our goal is for every child to take part in the world’s adventures, no matter the challenges they face.
In light of DDAM, we’re proud to open up our vast toolkit of disability resources and training for parents and caregivers, community organizations, businesses, and anyone else who wants to make sure the kids they work with can be included in any activity they choose to participate in.
Let’s talk about inclusion! We look forward to discussing options that best suit the needs of your organization and the families you serve. Contact KIT today!