Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: Helping individuals with disabilities achieve their dreams
According to the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), more than five million Americans have a developmental disability, such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, vision impairment or another learning or intellectual disability.
During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, celebrated each March, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health recognizes the many contributions made by youth and adults with developmental disabilities, and wants to highlight the importance of creating inclusive schools, workplaces and communities for these individuals to achieve their dreams and thrive.
As part of Devereux’s continuum of care, the organization provides innovative programs and services for children, adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities. At Devereux New Jersey, team members strive to help those they serve lead more fulfilling and rewarding lives through a broad spectrum of treatment settings, including community-based homes and apartments, vocational training, intensive in-home supports, and consultative and family-based service models focused on positive and strength-based approaches.
“Our programs and services are designed to help individuals with developmental disabilities increase their independent living skills, integrate into the community and achieve the highest possible quality of life,” said Devereux New Jersey Executive Director Brian Hancock, J.D. “We work collaboratively with families, teachers and agency staff to develop individualized support plans that build on each youth or adult’s strengths, needs and preferences. We want to ensure those we serve receive the care and assistance they need to succeed.”
Learning new skills; increasing independence
One individual who is showcasing his skills and talents and making meaningful connections and contributions in the community – with support from Devereux New Jersey – is Dan Maggiti. Since 2019, Dan has worked at the Equine Tranquility Wellness Center in Andover, N.J. The center offers therapeutic riding and equine-assisted learning for individuals with emotional, psychological and/or physical disabilities.
“I work in farm maintenance,” Dan explained. “I check the water for the horses, fill water buckets, clean horse stalls, carry bales of hay off of trailers, fix boards on the fence and other duties.”
Dan, who began receiving services through Devereux New Jersey in 2014, is enrolled in the center’s community-supported employment program. The program helps individuals acquire the skills needed to maintain competitive employment.
“My job coaches helped me find my job, learn my duties and talk to people at work when I was new. Now, I am comfortable with everyone,” Dan shared. “Sometimes, someone will ask me for help with something, and I really like that. I like being able to help with things I understand, and am good at. I enjoy being outside, so this job suits me. Even in bad weather, I don’t mind it. I enjoy working and interacting with everyone.”
As for what the future holds, Dan says, “I want to keep working at the farm, increase my hours and become more independent.”
Promoting inclusion: #DDawareness2022
To celebrate the accomplishments of individuals with developmental disabilities like Dan, and communicate the importance of inclusion, the NACDD holds an annual social media campaign during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This year, the NACDD is encouraging the public to share stories, photos, videos and resources about topics such as education, employment and community living on social media throughout the month of March – using the hashtags #DDawareness2022, #DDAM2022 or #WorldsImagined.
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