How to Respect People Who Have Developmental Disabilities

March 10, 2014
A smiling man talking to a student in his office.

“I am not stupid. I am not a loser. I am not a thing. I am a person,” writes John Franklin Stephens. “It hurts me to think that people assume that I am less than a whole person. That is what is so awful about slurs.”
Stephens is a Special Olympics athlete who has Down syndrome. He wrote a powerful Huffington blog post called “I Am the Person You Hurt When You Say the R-Word.” He says that he’s aiming straight for your heart when it comes to respecting people who have developmental disabilities. Check out his post for more about why anyone who uses the r-word should stop.
What else can you do to raise awareness about and respect for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD)?
“If you are a person with I/DD or know someone who has I/DD, simply make plans to go out somewhere in public on Saturday, March 29,” says The Arc, a disability rights organization. “That’s all.”

To round off Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, The Arc is planning for a National Day Out Event on March 29, 2014. The one-day movement is intended to help people who don’t have a disability better understand and respect people who do.
If you want to know more about the advances and setbacks that people with developmental disabilities have experienced since the 1970s, check out this Special Needs Alliance post. Blogger Robert B. Fleming highlights achievements like the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but notes that because bullying of students with special needs is still a serious problem, we must continue to “fight not only for more advances but to retain the accomplishments of past decades.”
Also check out this video from the Wisconsin Board for People With Developmental Disabilities (BPDD), which highlights the many contributions residents with developmental disabilities give to society.

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