March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month "We Can Make Choices ?" is the theme for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March.

It is a time to recognize as active citizens, good workers and good neighbors, individuals across our state who have developmental disabilities. South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds, recently signed a proclamation declaring March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in South Dakota.

Across the nation, organizations devoted to serving individuals with developmental disabilities are planning special events in March to raise public awareness.

"March is a time when organizations like the South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities, South Dakota Advocacy Services and USD Center for Disabilities focus on helping the public better understand the individuals we serve. It is known nationally as DD Awareness Month," commented Sandy Stocklin-Hook of SD Advocacy Services. Stocklin-Hook is the project coordinator for the statewide training course, Partners in Policymaking.

Arlene Poncelet, Executive Director of the South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities, added, "Raising public awareness involves redirecting the public's attention to what individuals with developmental

disabilities CAN DO instead of what they cannot do."

The theme for DD Awareness Month is "We Can Make Choices." What are choices? Choice of service provider. Choice of where one lives and works. Choice of friends. Through active participation of local businesses, schools and community service providers, people with developmental disabilities can be successful members of their communities. People with disabilities need more real choices and opportunities for belonging in their communities.

"It is often attitudinal barriers that adversely affect everyday life for individuals with developmental disabilities," said Stocklin-Hook.

Heather Stettnichs of the USD Center for Disabilities noted, "We are proud to plan activities during this special month that will help decrease the obstacles to productive lives that the individuals who we serve encounter."

Developmental disabilities is a broad term that encompasses both mental and physical conditions such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifada, and autism. People with developmental disabilities may experience difficulty in such areas as self-care, language, mobility, learning, self-direction, independent living or self-sufficiency.

For more information about developmental disabilities call the SD Council on Developmental Disabilities at 605-773-6369 or the USD Center for Disabilities at 1-800-658-3080 or SD Advocacy Services at 1-800-658-4782.

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