In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In his proclamation President Reagan urged all Americans to join him in, “according our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”
Over the past 29 years, the nation has seen movement toward inclusive classrooms, community living and better employment options for individuals with developmental disabilities to be fully included in society.
So why is it that so many people with developmental disabilities still feel left out?
Think about this. What creates a sense of belonging? What makes people with different tastes, talents and abilities come together and feel like they belong? For the most part it’s the feeling we get from others that we’re welcomed, accepted and valued. It’s being the recipient of an inclusive attitude.
Throughout the month of March consider challenging your inclusive attitude in all your social interactions. Be encouraging, welcoming and engaging. Be an active listener who values what others have to say. Then use this same approach when interacting with someone who has a developmental disability.
Having an inclusive attitude allows us to recognize and appreciate the multitude of abilities that each of us possess. It creates an environment that opens opportunities to develop authentic relationships at work, school and within our communities.
Take the challenge this month. Let’s show our ability to see abilities in others.