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March is a good time to notice “We’re here”

In March of 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Why, 35 years ago, was this important, and why should it be important to us today? Reagan said that year, “For many of these people with developmental disabilities there is now the prospect of a brighter future and greater opportunity. Americans are becoming increasingly aware that such disabilities need not keep individuals from realizing their full potential in school, at work or at home, as members of their families and of their communities.”

That was over three decades ago, and it is even more real today. Each of us should live out this idea in our own lives — that people of all abilities are important, have value and are free to live the life they want to live. In essence, that is the vision of the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities: “A community that recognizes the importance and potential of all people.”

Throughout the year, many people will say to me that they had no idea all we do at the Allen County Board of DD. I will even hear “Why don’t you tell people that?” We try to tell people, but until our world has touched yours, it can be hard to understand. It is hard to understand because it is so vast and always evolving.

Did you know we work with a young family whose child was born premature? They may only need our services for three short years of their baby’s life. But in Early Intervention, we know those three years are some of the most important. Eighty percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 3! It is our pleasure to walk alongside these families for that period of time.

Did you know we visit local public schools to listen to teachers talk about the struggles a student may have during class? It is a privilege to hear their stories and help provide positive intervention strategies, so students can learn, spending more time with friends and less time in trouble.

Did you know we coordinate services so people with unique abilities can get jobs, keep jobs and have rides to their jobs? We work with a record number of people contributing to our economy through their employment. And we always have many more people who want a job.

We work with babies from a few weeks old. We work with older citizens until the end of their precious lives. That makes our services unique.

These are just three examples of services we are proud to highlight during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Our theme this year is “We’re here.” Not the professionals, not the teachers, not the job coaches, not the therapists, not the case managers. It is the people. The more than 1,400 people we served in 2021 and those we have the pleasure of working with every day. They are here to be good neighbors, good friends, good taxpayers and good citizens.

As March 2022 is upon us, I challenge you to get to know someone with a developmental disability. Do you have a neighbor who seems to have some unique challenges and might need an extra hand? Do you know a young mom with a premature baby who has needed extra medical care? How about someone with seizures? Have you ever noticed the man with visual impairments greeting you at your grocery store? If so, get to know these people better. If you do not know anyone with a special need, call us. We would be happy to connect you.

Just one example is through our Community Connections group, called FANs (Friends, Allies & Neighbors). This might be the perfect place for you to meet some new people. Your day just might be changed for the better by a conversation with someone you might have thought was “less fortunate” than you.

Help us celebrate March. And if you think you, or someone you know, might need our assistance, “We’re here” for you as well!


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