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The world has come a long way since people with developmental disabilities were ostracized, institutionalized, marginalized and even treated as objects of scorn. Even so, there is still more progress that can be made in recognizing and meeting unique needs of each person who has a developmental disability. 

Developmental Disability Awareness Month seeks to make it a reality that children and adults of all types are succeeding in their education and in life!

History of Developmental Disability Awareness Month

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was made official in 1987 when US President Ronald Reagan recognized the event. The stated purpose was to increase public awareness of the needs as well as the potential of Americans who have disabilities. In addition, the event is also celebrated as a way to provide encouragement and resources to help them to achieve their full potential and lead productive lives.

While the term developmental disabilities can refer to a wide range of situations and struggles, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines it as an impairment in physical, language, learning or behavioral areas. This may include diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, down syndrome learning disabilities, ADHD, hearing loss, vision impairment or other developmental delays.

Today, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is supported and observed by a number of different non-profit organizations, government agencies, educational institutions and other groups. These thirty-one days offer a perfect opportunity to learn, grow, encourage, support and share in families, schools, communities, cities and all across the globe!

How to Observe Developmental Disability Awareness Month

Every person deserves to have their needs met and live a fulfilled life! Developmental Disability Awareness Month provides opportunities to get involved and connected, starting with some of these ideas:

Show Support with the Color Orange

The official ribbon and support color for Developmental Disability Awareness Month is orange as it symbolizes energy and positivity. So donning this color is a great way to show support! Try pinning an orange ribbon to a coat or shirt, get a group of coworkers to wear orange in honor of the event, or make a virtual orange ribbon a profile picture for social media.

Advocate for Developmental Disabilities

Whether a person has developmental disabilities of their own or they care about those who do, Developmental Disability Awareness Day might be the perfect time to consider acting as an advocate for others. Advocate activities include speaking up for the rights of all humans, including those with developmental disabilities; fighting for policies that protect and help every person succeed; and acting as a positive force for change in the world.

For more information, get connected with the Disability Advocacy Network, the National Disability Rights Network and other support organizations.  


Other important days to celebrate that are associated with this topic include World Down Syndrome Day, World Autism Awareness Day, and World Cerebral Palsy Day, along with many others. 

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