Strive to understand individuals with disabilities


Photo by National Association Council of Developmental Disabilities

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Bryanna Martinez, Sports Editor

“Oh, you have autism? I am sorry, I didn’t realize!”

During the 19th and 20th centuries, individuals who had developmental and/or mental disabilities were placed in institutions and faced stigmatization. Living with a disability was frowned upon and was not acceptable by social standards in society.

In the 1988 film, Rain Man, the main character, Raymond, lives in a mental institution with a group of other people. These individuals with disabilities were placed in homes, rather than being cared for by family; back then, it was a major stigma to have a child with a disability.

However, that stigma has slightly changed as mental illness and individuals with disabilities are prominent in conversation today, and people are a bit more compassionate toward those with disabilities.

On Feb. 26, 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March “National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” in order to “increase public awareness and potential needs of Americans with developmental disabilities,” according to the National Association of Council on Developmental Disabilities website.

This year’s motto is “See Me for Me,” aspiring to look beyond someone’s disability. The motto underscores that we need to see beyond how a person looks and emphasize personality.

Various types of developmental disabilities are ADHD, aphasia, autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia – to name a few.

On a personal note, I have Asperger’s syndrome – a high functioning form of the autism spectrum disorder. When I doubt my abilities in a particular area, such as remembering a list or talking in front of a crowd, I remind myself that I am not defined or characterized by autism, and it is not something that will hold back my achievements.

Having Asperger’s is more of a self-learning process and awareness of my social behavior when I do not realize something is off. From attending speech therapy as a kid, to now vocalizing my answers towards an audience or class, I have greatly improved.
I hope that one day, people can be more understanding of individuals with disabilities and that we can be understood. Give us, persons with disabilities, some patience. We cannot always verbalize what we want.

Here is a link of the proclamation in regards to National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: