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March 2009 - Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
Release Date: February 18, 2009

March 2009 - Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Our Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, in coordination with the New Jersey Senate, proclaim March 2009 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in support of efforts to provide public awareness and education to the community and to increase understanding of the issues affecting people with disabilities. In previous years the month of March was recognized as Mental Retardation Awareness Month and with this change in name we will help promote the effort to have "developmental disabilities" replace "mental retardation" in our day-to-day language.

Developmental disability is a term used to describe life-long disabilities attributable to mental and/or physical or combination of mental and physical impairments, manifested prior to age twenty-two. Disabilities affecting daily functioning in any of three or more of the following areas, such as; learning, mobility, receptive and expressive language, self-care, self-direction, economic self-sufficiency and the capacity for independent living.

For more specific information about common factors causing developmental disabilities Google NJ Developmental Disabilities

The term Developmental Disabilities first appeared in U.S. law in 1970, when Congress used the term to describe the population of individuals who had historically been placed in state institutions, in its effort to improve conditions in these dehumanizing facilities (P.L. 91-517, "The Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Act of 1970"). The law has since been amended many times, and now calls for the full community inclusion and self-determination of people with developmental disabilities (P.L. 106-402).

Throughout history, people with developmental disabilities have been viewed as incapable and incompetent in their capacity for decision-making and development. There are many social, environmental and physical causes of developmental disabilities, although for some a definitive cause may never be determined. Some common factors causing developmental disabilities include: brain injury or infection before, during or after birth; growth or nutrition problems; abnormalities of chromosomes and genes; babies born long before the expected birth date - also called extreme prematurity; and poor diet and health care. Causes also include drug misuse during pregnancy, including alcohol intake and smoking. Child abuse can also have a severe effect on the development of a child, specifically the socio-emotional development as well as the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder.

Today, support services are provided by government agencies, non-governmental organizations and by private sector providers. Support services address most aspects of life for people with developmental disabilities, and are usually theoretically based in community inclusion. Support services are funded through government block funding (paid directly to service providers by the government), through individualized funding packages (paid directly to the individual by the government, specifically for the purchase of services) or privately by the individual (although they may receive certain subsidies or discounts, paid by the government).

Many people with developmental disabilities live in the general community, either with family members, or in their own homes. Some live in residential accommodation (also known as group homes) with other people with similar assessed needs. These homes are usually staffed around the clock, and usually house between 3 to 7 residents depending on the size of the homes.

Education and training opportunities for people with developmental disabilities have expanded greatly in recent times, with many governments mandating universal access to educational facilities, and more students moving out of special schools and into mainstream classrooms with support. Most programs offering at-home and community support are designed with the goal of increasing the individual's independence, although it is recognized that people with more severe disabilities may never be able to achieve full independence in some areas of daily life.

A paid support worker assists the developmental disabled individual with their activities and/or aspects of daily living in order to fully participate in ones living environment. Supports of this type also include assistance to identify and undertake new hobbies or to access community services (such as education), learning appropriate behavior or recognition of community norms, or with relationships and expanding circles of friends.

The paid support worker provides employment support, which is critical to access or participate in integrated employment in a workplace in the general community. This may include specific programs to increase the skills needed for successful employment (work preparation), one-to-one or small group support for on-the-job training, or one-to-one or small group support after a transition period (such as advocacy when dealing with an employer or a bullying colleague, or assistance to complete an application for a promotion). Also the provision of specific employment opportunities within segregated business services. Although these are designed as 'transitional' services (teaching work skills needed to move into integrated employment), many people remain in such services for the duration of their working life. Workers with developmental disabilities have historically been paid less for their labor than those in the general workforce, although this is gradually changing with government initiatives.

Often the paid support worker also acts as an advocate for the individual with a developmental disability, in communicating their needs, self expression and goals. Advocacy support is a rapidly growing support field for people with developmental disabilities. Advocacy groups now exist in most jurisdictions, working collaboratively with people with disabilities for systemic change (such as changes in policy and legislation) and for changes for individuals (such as claiming welfare benefits or when responding to abuse). Most advocacy groups also work to support people, throughout the world, to increase their capacity for self-advocacy, teaching the skills necessary for people to advocate for their own needs. Other types of support for people with developmental disabilities are; therapeutic services, such as speech therapy, massage, aromatherapy, or drama or music therapy; supported holidays; short-stay respite services (for people who live with family members or other unpaid carers); and transport services.

As a community we must join together to develop and implement public policies that will promote individual worth, self respect, and dignity so that each developmental disabled individual is valued as a contributing member and citizen of our Sussex County Community.

For more specific information about common factors causing developmental disabilities Google NJ Developmental Disabilities

The Sussex County Disability Services Advisory Council (DSAC) serves as an advisory board to the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders regarding issues and concerns impacting county residents with disabilities and their families. The Council advocates for increased awareness, services, education and accessibility within the community. There are six (6) meetings in a 12 month period. The public may attend these meetings which are held at: The Sussex County Main Library/ community room, located at 125 Morris Turnpike, Newton, NJ 07860 at 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm on the following dates with two exceptions *noted for March and April:

  • Monday January 26, at the SC Main Library
  • * Monday March 23, at the Div. of Social Services, 83 Spring Street, Newton
  • * Monday April 27 at the SC Main Library at 4:00 pm.
  • Monday September 14 at the SC Main Library
  • Monday November 2 at the SC Main Library

The above meetings and agenda are posted on the County website www.sussex.nj.us in the meeting schedules.

The Para Transit Loop bus schedule will take you there upon request. For Transit Services, please call #973-579-0480, and then press 1.

For additional information and referral services available in Sussex County contact:
Patricia A. Kibildis, MSW
(973) 948-6000, x 223 or TTY (973) 948-0793

A program of the
135 Morris Turnpike, Newton, N.J. 07860
Office Hours: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Phone 973-948-6000 Fax 973-948-6664

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