Developmental disability is a diverse group of chronic conditions that are due to mental or physical impairments. Developmental disabilities cause individuals living with them many difficulties in certain areas of life, especially in “language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living”.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for the past couple years, since the day I truly recognized most people haven’t had the privilege to be around a person with a developmentally disability.
Let’s start from the beginning, I grew up around folks that are developmentally disabled, because my mother was a special education teacher over the past 20 years. She also did respite care, so we were exposed to people that sadly some look down upon. Since my sister and I were kids we’d join my mom’s “movie crew” once a week which consist of over 7-10 people with disabilities, we had no idea that we were exposed to such an amazing thing. Now Mason occasionally goes with the “movie crew” as well. I specifically remember my mom bringing a couple of her respite kids to watch my soccer games and they would just light up from just watching me kick a ball around, I can still picture their smile and cheering.
Years later, I started respite care and had a baby of my own. I’ve been watching the same woman for the past 9 years, pregnant with Mason when I started. She is family now, it doesn’t even feel like a job. Mason and I have had many conversations about all the different disabilities; from classmates, people we see at the grocery store, to the day he realized the woman I watch was developmentally disabled (I believe he was 6 years old). It was on that day that I started to realize a lot of people don’t have the privilege to know someone with a disability. Then I remembered another conversation with a friend of mine about bringing the woman I watch with us when we’d meet at the park, her oldest child asked questions about disabilities and then thanked me for bringing this experience into their lives. Years later it made me smile seeing the oldest child doing some volunteer work with a group a individuals with disabilities.
What my mom exposed me to, I had no idea the magnitude of it. I don’t feel sorry for folks with a disability, I feel sorry for the folks that don’t have anyone in their lives with a disability. Individuals with a developmental disability, any that I’ve known have such a glow to them, happiness, non-judgmental, non-discriminatory. They make you feel good about yourself and put you in a happy mood, they make you realize to treat every one equally no matter there ability, race, wealth, gender, religion, sexual orientation.
Treat them equally. This is the biggest advice you will read and the only thing I’m going to discuss! Fact is they’re people just like you and me. The #1 thing my mom taught me was treat a person with a developmental disability just like anybody else. You don’t need to talk to them in a baby voice, or like they can’t hear and understand, they aren’t contagious, are capable of doing tasks, making choices and learning – to their ability. Treat them with respect and dignity. Just like everybody else!!!
So, next time you and your child see a person with a disability have a quick chat with them about how some people are born different and there’s nothing wrong with that. Teach them to treat them just like they would anybody else. Remind them that everyone is different in some way or another whether they have a disability or not. It’s okay to talk about it in a nice respectful way.