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02/28/2022 Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

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Happy Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month! It’s the time of year when we raise awareness about the inclusion of people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in all facets of community life and call attention to the barriers that people with disabilities can still face in connecting to their communities. 

At HopeWell, our Staffed Community Homes and Shared Living Program provide adults living with developmental disabilities with the opportunity to live active, fulfilling lives in a family atmosphere with as much independence as possible. We support the service plans and treatment goals of the adults we serve who are living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our goal is to ensure that their best interests are always front and center. 

What are intellectual and developmental disabilities? 

According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD), an intellectual disability is “characterized by significant limitation in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 22.” Intellectual functioning, also called intelligence, refers to general mental capacity (e.g. learning, reasoning, problem solving, etc.). Generally, an IQ score around 70 is indicative of an intellectual disability. Adaptive behavior, according to AIDD, is “the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that are learned and performed by people in their everyday lives.” 

For greater clarification, AIDD describes these skills thusly: 

  • “Conceptual skills—language and literacy; money, time, and number concepts; and self-direction.
  • Social skills—interpersonal skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, gullibility, naïveté (i.e., wariness), social problem solving, and the ability to follow rules/obey laws and to avoid being victimized.
  • Practical skills—activities of daily living (personal care), occupational skills, healthcare, travel/transportation, schedules/routines, safety, use of money, use of the telephone.”

 A developmental disability, according to the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), is defined as “a severe, chronic disability that occurs before an individual is 22 that is likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity:

  • self-care 
  • receptive and expressive language
  • learning
  • mobility
  • self-direction
  • capacity for independent living
  • economic self-sufficiency
  • These impairments require the individual to sustain lifelong or extended supports or assistance. Diagnosed conditions may include autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or spina bifida.”

According to The Arc, there are an estimated 7.3 million people living with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the U.S. 

Our country has made tremendous strides in ensuring greater dignity, independence, employment and educational opportunities; and quality of care for people living with disabilities since the long-ago days when they were commonly institutionalized or forced out of their communities. Yet compared to their peers who are not disabled, people living with disabilities have worse outcomes when it comes to metrics like accessing health care, completing high school, and securing employment. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the health disparities for people living with disabilities in dramatic fashion: patients with intellectual disabilities, for example, were six times more likely to die from the virus than other people, according to a study released last year. It also found that having an intellectual disability was the biggest independent risk factor for contracting COVID-19, controlling for race, ethnicity and other variables, and that having an intellectual disability was second only to age for virus-related deaths. 

In an op-ed about the study, Dr. Wendy Ross, one of its co-authors, noted that some of the elevated risk for people with intellectual disabilities stemmed from the reality that they often live in group settings, use shared transportation, are exposed to people outside their households and struggle with precautions like wearing a mask. 

But Ross pointed to institutional failings as contributing factors as well, noting a survey in which just 41 percent of doctors expressed high confidence in their ability to provide the same quality of care of patients with disabilities as they do to non-disabled people. Ross also noted that Black and Latino people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities have even worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. 

Clearly our country still has far to go in ensuring better quality of life for all Americans who are living with intellectual or developmental disabilities—and that includes supporting caregivers, too. 

Nonetheless, HopeWell is proud of our work with people living with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Our dedicated team of Direct Support Professionals work hard every day to help all of our residents develop the skills to prepare meals, manage money, maintain personal hygiene, build and sustain relationships, and maintain their health. 

Of course, we could always use your help. Visit our website to learn more about becoming a Shared Living Caregiver, donating items or money, or volunteering. 

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