DES MOINES, Iowa – More than 50 million Americans are living with developmental disabilities, but many are also highly functioning individuals actively participating in their communities.
Lane Till, a spokeswoman for the Iowans With Disabilities and Action Project, said this year’s campaign theme, “See Me For Me” is meant to recognize the contributions made by the 48,000 Iowans with developmental disabilities. She said she believes the month provides an opportunity to remember that every person deserves to be identified as a unique individual with special gifts and talents.
“One of the things that we talk about quite a bit is a person’s ability versus their disability,” Till said. “And so March helps us highlight the contributions of those with disabilities in their communities throughout Iowa.”
Developmental disabilities are defined as conditions developed prior to age 22 that cause mental or physical limitations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one in six, or 15 percent, of children aged three through 17 have one or more developmental disabilities.
The proclamation making March National Development Disabilities Awareness Month was signed in 1987. Since then, Lane said, Iowa communities have made huge strides in embracing people with autism, Down syndrome or epilepsy and other disabilities – people who might previously have faced a lifetime of dependency.
“We want to encourage those with developmental disabilities to share their stories and talk about their contributions in the community,” she said. “Sometimes people need to hear someone else’s personal story and feel like they can do that too. ”
You can follow the stories from Iowans during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month on social media at #DDAwareness18.