President Reagan recognized March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities” and to provide “the encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and realize their full potential.
According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), one in six children (17%) in the United States between the ages of 3 and 17 are diagnosed with some form of disability. Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in the physical, learning, language or behavioral domains. These disabilities can sometimes last a lifetime.
People with disabilities have not always been perceived as they are today. In fact, in the early 1900s, children with disabilities were often described as “paralyzed”, “slow” or “peculiar”. In 1912, a Children’s Bureau was founded under President Taft to monitor a wide range of childhood statistics. It wasn’t until 1948 that Ohio’s first laws were passed to “address the provision of services to ‘crippled’ children” in response to the polio epidemic.
In 1955, diagnostic services became available to every child in Ohio to assess for a “disabling” condition, regardless of income. In 1987, the language began to change when the coverage program moved from the Bureau of Crippled Children’s services to the Bureau of Children with Medical Disabilities we know today. The American Psychological Association has begun to support the use of “people’s first language”. Basically, it is about moving from a description of a delay first (“autistic child”) to recognizing the child first (“autistic child”, “child with learning disabilities” ). The movement in support of children has also continued over the years at the congressional level. The Rehabilitation Act 1973 enacted protection against discrimination of any person because of their disability. This paved the way for other laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act (IDEA) of 1975 which gave all children the equal right to an education, and the United States Persons with Disabilities 1990 which also protects persons with disabilities from discrimination.
We are fortunate to be in an era where people with disabilities enjoy protection and rights to employment, education and benefits without discrimination. Professionals are now motivated in their careers to teach young minds who may not think like many of their peers. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are more common and carry far less stigma than in previous years. Our whole society has made many changes to not judge disabilities and instead started to support them. A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi says: “The true measure of any society is in how it treats its most vulnerable members.
Many families are unaware of all the local programs to help with early detection and intervention, medical care, support, and even transportation. Programs such as CMH (Children with Medical Disabilities), HMG (Help Me Grow)/EI (Early Intervention), FCFC (Family and Children First Council) and OOD (Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities) provide a resource for those with disabilities. medical problems or developmental disabilities. As a CMH Public Health Nurse in the Meigs County Health Department, I am dedicated to finding local resources for families in need. Please contact me with any questions: Angie Rosler RN 740-992-6626.
Angie Rosler is the Children with Medical Disabilities Nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.