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March 15, 2023

March is National Disability Month - Disability and Addiction

People with intellectual or developmental disabilities who develop substance abuse problems often face more severe consequences when they abuse drugs and alcohol such as lower impulse control and severe social isolation. By understanding developmental disabilities, we can better understand a fairly large demographic of addicts and how to help them.

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March 15, 2023

Everyone is somewhat guilty of getting wrapped up in their own struggles to the point they forget other people are out in the world struggling as well. For certain, struggles can come in all forms, shapes, and sizes.

One area of real concern related to struggling has to do with people who have disabilities or live among family members who are living with disabilities. One of the great tragedies of life is that some people never get a chance to live what most of us would consider a "normal" life.

For this article, we are using the term disabilities to refer to people who live with "developmental" disabilities. This information also applies to people who are responsible for the care of family members who have developmental disabilities.

Throughout the world, this has always been a very serious issue for far too long. It has been and is serious enough to warrant an entire month devoted to raising awareness about the struggles of people who are dealing with developmental disabilities in some manner.

In the following information, the discussion is going to focus on National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This very important initiative is observed in the U.S. every year, during the month of March.

The History Behind National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

It wasn't all that long ago, maybe 200 years, that children and adults with developmental problems were tossed aside like trash in institutions. The reality was very few people if any had any idea how to take care of someone who could not properly process information. To avoid the embarrassment and burden of caring for someone with a developmental disability, "out of sight, out of mind" was the most common approach.

Fortunately, attitudes towards people with developmental disabilities started changing around 1848, thanks to the efforts of Dorothea Dix. She brought light to the issue by advocating for humane conditions in institutions where the disabled were being held and often mistreated.

In the 1870s, six noted medical professionals organized to begin research and the treatment of people with developmental issues. The group founded an organization that would later become known as the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities or A.A.I.D.D. This is a group that was largely credited as the forefathers of working with the developmentally disabled so they could be brought out of institutions and integrated back into their families and society.

As awareness of this problem grew, it was President Ronald Reagan who decided we could all do more if we understood the depths of these issues. It was in 1987 that he declared the National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month initiative.

What Falls Under Developmental Disabilities?

Before discussing the specifics related to National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it's necessary to clarify what types of developmental disabilities would fall under this initiative. These are disabilities that can come at birth or through life events that lead to brain damage.

Here is a look at some of the main conditions that fall under the category of developmental disabilities:

  • Autism
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome (FXS)
  • Dyslexia and Dyscalculia

How common are these disorders? It would be a real challenge to find anyone in America that hasn't had some level of exposure to at least one of these conditions. A lot of people can make that claim on a very personal level.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is an estimated 6.0 million Americans who are suffering from one of the aforementioned conditions. That includes one in six children who could be classified as developmentally disabled.

For just a moment, let's put ourselves in the shoes of someone who might be developmentally disabled. For impact, approach this exercise through the mind of a child. Here are just a few of the challenges they might face every day:

  • Unable to feed themselves
  • Unable to tell time or count change
  • Unable to walk, run, or stand without assistance
  • They miss out on the fun activities everyone else takes for granted
  • They might never get the opportunity to hold a job
  • Building a family might be impossible

What is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month All About?

Without awareness, the developmentally disabled tend to get shunned by society. Oftentimes, this can be attributed to the fact people know so very little about these problems. What they don't understand causes them to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of being intimidated by the differences that come from the disabled. Eliminating these kinds of issues in society is exactly what National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is all about.

This special awareness month runs from March 1 to March 31 every year. Each year, the following three (3) organizations work together to create new and better ways that communities all over the country can come together in support of the developmentally disabled:

  • National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities (A.U.C.D.)
  • National Disability Rights Network (N.D.R.N.)

We would be remiss not to mention that hundreds of regional and local organizations also make significant contributions to increasing awareness within their communities.

It's important to note that while awareness helps, it's actions that are also needed in order to help our developmentally disabled "brothers and sisters." The ultimate goal should always be their inclusion and acceptance by society in general, and the community more specifically. To that end, here are some ways you can get involved and make a difference during National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month:

  • Educate Yourself - understanding the fight is a big part of winning the fight
  • Fundraising for the Cause - the fight against great causes demands capital resources
  • Lend a Caring Hand - the warmth of the human touch and spirit can heal a lot of ailments that are experienced by the developmentally challenged

Addiction and Developmental Disabilities

Today, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are increasingly integrated into society and many people with special needs live with far less supervision than they did in the past. As a result, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are now more prone to encounter drugs and alcohol and some are developing substance abuse problems.

There are certain disabilities that make a person more vulnerable to addictive tendencies, leading to serious substance abuse problems. By bringing attention to the adversities they face can allow us as a society to better understand how to help before it's too late.

At Hollywood Hills Recovery, we offer our full support for initiatives like National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. It provides our employees with yet another reason to continue the battle against drug and alcohol addiction.

Make no mistake about it, the developmentally disabled population is not immune to the grips of addiction. Like everyone else on the planet, they have difficult lives, perhaps more so than people without such disabilities. After all, they are forced to cope with issues that most of us can't even fathom. In response to their everyday difficulties, there are some people who go down the path of substance abuse in their request to forget their struggles.

Addiction Treatment for the Developmentally Disabled

We openly welcome the opportunity to offer our addiction treatment services to the developmentally disabled population. That includes giving them access to detox programs, therapies, and aftercare programs when needed.

Of course, treating the disabled provides us with certain challenges, challenges that cause us to sometimes alter our treatment methods. Many times, special equipment is needed for residential clients. They often require special housing and communication tools.

We also find it necessary to include family members more deeply in the treatment process. It turns out that developmentally disabled fair much better when they have the comforts of familiarity. This is why outpatient programs seem to work well when treating the disabled.

All of this points directly to our reasoning for supporting National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This is part of our initiative to take the battle against drug and alcohol addiction to wherever that battle might be.

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