Let’s Go Out on March 29

#DDAwareThe Arc Plans for a National Day Out Event for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and The Arc invites you to join us on March 29 in a grassroots initiative to help raise awareness about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

What should you do? 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. That’s all. Just plan a day out and about enjoying the things you like to do. And, in the process help raise awareness and generate some conversation about people with I/DD during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This one-day movement will serve to harness our collective power to gain allies, foster understanding, dispel myths and encourage a greater understanding among people without a disability.

Year round, The Arc works to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, learn, work and play as valued and contributing members of their communities. We fight for legislation to remove barriers to full participation and inclusion and have been successful on many fronts. But sometimes the barrier has nothing to do with the width of a doorway or an employer’s hiring practices. Sometimes the barrier is as subtle as a nervous glance from an uninformed person in line with you at the market.

So, this March 29, let’s all go out and start breaking down those social barriers once and for all. As an individual with I/DD, this is your chance to personally help raise awareness just by being yourself and participating in the things you enjoy alongside others in your community without disabilities. Make plans now to hit the movies, the park, your local shopping center or restaurant and maybe spark some conversation in the process. If you are a friend or family member of a person with I/DD, make plans now to enjoy a fun activity together in public and take the opportunity to show others that we’re all not so different after all.

Visit The Arc’s website at www.thearc.org/lets-go-out and find out more about this campaign and things you can do join in. And spread the word using the hashtag #DDAware on social media during the month of March. Follow us online at www.facebook.com/thearcus or www.twitter.com/thearcus and be sure to show us what you end up doing on March 29 by sharing your photos using the hashtag #DDAware.

Want to do more? You can help support The Arc’s national organization through a tax-deductible donation. Or you can find your local chapter at www.thearc.org/findachapter.

March is National Nutrition Month

By Kerry Mauger, The Arc’s HealthMeet Team

HealthMeetMarch is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness month and it is also National Nutrition Month®. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created an annual campaign to help educate and inform people all over the US about the importance of creating healthy eating habits, making more informed food choices and increasing physical activity. This is especially important for individuals living with an intellectual or developmental disability. It’s been shown that individuals with a disability have a higher prevalence for obesity, which can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and other preventable health issues.

Learning more about nutrition and what types of foods to eat can make a huge impact in your overall health. By teaching and using the MyPlate methodology, individuals can get a visual perspective of the types of foods and portions that they should be consuming daily. To help show different portion sizes that are appropriate for certain foods you can compare them to household items that the individual will be able to relate to.  For example -knowing that a 3-4oz serving of chicken should be about the size of a deck of cards or half a cup of pasta is the size of a baseball will help to put portion sizes into perspective for future meals.

Small changes to the foods you consume can also make a significant imprint in your health over time – switching to skim milk from 2%, replacing sour cream with Greek yogurt, eating whole grain bread instead of white bread and controlling sodium intake are all very simple steps to take to making healthier eating habits. Many resources are available through The Arc’s HealthMeet project and their webinars that feature presentations by nutritionists, dieticians, nurses and more to help individuals to be more educated about the foods they chose, portion sizes and ways to improve fitness levels to help reduce obesity and many of its related preventable illnesses.

“Just Be”: Dancing Knows No Disability

Shannon and Tim QuinnBy Shannon Quinn, Guest Blogger

Shannon Quinn is a dancer and teacher at Dance Place, a nonprofit arts campus in Washington, D.C. In April, her company, ReVision dance company will perform “Just Be” in honor of her father; the late Timothy J. Quinn.  The April 27 performance includes a VIP reception with proceeds benefiting The Arc. Tim Quinn was Executive Director of The Arc of the Northern Chesapeake Region from 1990 to 2010. Tim was a visionary leader and advocate for people with disabilities, respected nationwide for his efforts. During his time with The Arc, his chapter was recognized for the quality of its services and commitment to personal empowerment and inclusion. And, Tim personally received the National Conference of Executives of The Arc 2009 Executive Excellence Award.

Growing up with my father, Tim Quinn, I was inspired from an early age to work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I would travel every summer with my dad to The Arc conventions, and tag along when I could in his office at The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region. I was inspired by his kind heart and genuine interest in every person he came into contact with.

Teaching has always been a passion of mine, and since my father’s passing, I became more involved in teaching dance to children and adults with I/DD. I walk away from each class uplifted and focused on how individuals no matter what their abilities are, can be impacted by dance.

As my work with individuals with I/DD increased over the past two years, I had some serious thoughts about inclusion and how the word inclusion shouldn’t really even exist. Every human being has the right to live a fulfilled engaging life, no matter what their ability, and that should be a given.  As an artist, I began to form these thoughts into movements and from there, the piece “Just Be” was born.

In the work, I explore subjects like support and “people first language.” What does it mean to support individuals with I/DD and then in return, how does that support translate into those individuals supporting themselves? The piece also focuses on people first, rather than labeling by an individual’s disability. I want my message to be positive and uplifting to every individual. Dance is universal and has no limits. This project has reinforced my belief the dance can bring people together, no matter their age, background, ability, experience, profession or skill level.

On Saturday, April 27, the ReVision dance company will perform “Just Be” and host a VIP reception organized in partnership with The Arc of the United States with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The Arc. The performance features children with disabilities from the Mamie D. Lee School who were taught by instructors from ReVision dance company. Also, the performance includes students from The Arc of the Northern Chesapeake Region shown on film. I hope you’ll be able to join us at Dance Place and help celebrate my father’s legacy to celebrate and love ALL people. Find out more about our dance company and this performance at www.danceplace.org.

Ask a Simple Question

As part of a month-long campaign to make some noise during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, The Arc posed an open-ended question to our Facebook audience of just over 9,000 people. We asked them what they would like people to be more aware of when it comes to intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

As of this writing, just a few hours after posing the question, several dozen of our friends chimed in, offering their answers, liking and commenting on other answers and sharing, sharing and more sharing. What is interesting is that almost every single answer touched on a unique concern or issue.

A challenge The Arc faces in its role as the national organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is attempting to serve and advocate for a group of individuals who may have one or more of over 100 different diagnoses which fall under the umbrella of I/DD at any stage in their lives. This naturally means that we have to work on issues ranging from early intervention and early childhood education, to transition from school to adult life, to inclusion in the community all the way to the most sensitive end-of-life issues.

One just has to glance at the responses to this question to see the scope of this challenge. Men, women and teens are posting about employment issues, under-diagnosed and under-represented conditions, respectful language, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), the adult service system and what happens after high school, and parents with I/DD raising their children.

But the first step to addressing those challenges is raising awareness. If the responses to our question on Facebook are any indication of the types of conversations that are happening across the country during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, then we are well on our way. If you are interested in joining this small army of advocates to raise awareness of what it takes to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, learn, work and play as participating members of their communities, check us out on Facebook and Twitter, find out more about the issues on our website and learn how you can support the work of The Arc.

Empower Yourself. Empower Someone Else. #DDAware!

Empower Yourself, Empower Someone Else

Support the Movement for People with I/DDTwenty-six years ago we successfully advocated for March to be declared National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. And, there is no doubt that we have made tremendous strides to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, learn, work and play as valued and contributing members of their communities, the real strength of our message comes straight from the individuals we serve. No matter how effective our organization’s advocacy efforts may be, no one is as powerful an advocate for people with I/DD as a person with I/DD.

So, this year during March, The Arc would like to empower all individuals with I/DD to appoint themselves as their own advocates. As a self-advocate, you can help take the movement for people with I/DD to others in your community. It can start with a simple question. This March, ask everyone you meet: “Did you know that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month?” That may spark a conversation – a teachable moment – when you can share your experience living with a disability with someone else.

All month, we’ll be working to raise awareness about the issues important to people with I/DD. As a self-advocate, you can help us “turn up the volume.”  Take this opportunity to empower yourself and empower someone else with some of these simple suggestions:

Follow the conversation on Facebook (facebook.com/thearcus), Twitter (@thearcus) and here on our blog and be sure to chime in when you have something to say using the hashtag #DDAware.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Q&A with T.J. Sutcliffe

This month, The Arc’s blog will feature a Q & A with members of The Arc’s national office staff to help raise awareness of issues important to the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. T.J. Sutcliffe is a policy advocate for The Arc working to promote and protect the rights of individuals with I/DD through positive public policy.

Don't Cut Our Lifeline LogoQ. T.J., you work on the front lines in Washington, D.C. helping to shape public policy to meet the needs of people with I/DD. Why is it important to take advantage of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March to get involved in public policy?

“When a Member of Congress hears directly from a constituent with a disability … it can make the issue real in a way that statistics just can’t.”

A. Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is the perfect time for people with I/DD, their families, and friends to get involved in public policy. Right now, the U.S. Congress is starting to look at Federal funding for next year, and we know that funding is going to be very tight. It’s a great time to speak up early in the process, and let Congress know that programs like Medicaid are a lifeline for people with I/DD and their families, and must be sustained. Also, a huge part of awareness is telling our stories – and the stories of people with I/DD and their families are incredibly powerful. When a Member of Congress hears directly from a constituent with a disability, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a neighbor it can make the issue real in a way that statistics just can’t. So don’t wait. Check out The Arc’s “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline” Medicaid toolkit and visit The Arc’s Action Center to find out how you can get involved.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Q&A with Lynell Tucker

This month, The Arc’s blog will feature a Q & A with members of The Arc’s national office staff to help raise awareness of issues important to the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Lynell Tucker is the program manager for The Arc’s School-to-Community Transition Program funded by the Walmart Foundation. The program supports chapters of The Arc in improving outcomes for young adults transitioning to life beyond high school.

Women planting flowers in a greenhouseQ. Lynell, you are deeply involved in The Arc’s School-to-Community Transition program funded by the Walmart Foundation. Help us raise some awareness about transition issues for the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities when they finish high school and have to transition to post-secondary education, employment or life in the community?

“Youth with I/DD have a world of opportunity open to them.”

A. The biggest challenge seems to be for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to know what they want to do after high school. Youth with I/DD have a world of opportunity open to them; however, they may not always know that. We are seeing that there is a heavy focus on getting on waiting lists, applying for the adult service system, and making sure that they are able to access the necessary services and supports once they graduate. These are all vital aspects of transitioning into adult life; however, just as important is what one wants to do with their life – their hopes and dreams. Students and youth participating in the School-to-Community Transition Initiative are discovering for themselves what interests them. Do they want to go to college? Work in the community? Live independently, and so much more? The participating chapters of The Arc who are implementing transition programs are facilitating this discovery through the use of life planning tools. Students are overcoming the challenges by determining their future for themselves.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Q&A with Laurie Ertz

This month, The Arc’s blog will feature a Q & A with members of The Arc’s national office staff to help raise awareness of issues important to the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Laurie Ertz is the Director of Chapter Excellence and works with our national network of 700_ chapters to give them the tools and resources they need to better serve people with I/DD.

Laurie Ertz

Q. Laurie, you recently helped launch The Arc’s National Council of Self Advocates. Why is it important to have people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in leadership roles at The Arc.

A. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), whether they identify as self advocates or not, are quite simply the only people who can tell us what truly matters to them. As much as the people who love and support them care about their well-being, that caregiver cannot completely put him or herself in the shoes of a person with an intellectual or developmental disability. So, as an organization, we need to fully include people with I/DD, especially in leadership roles to even hope to move forward toward our goal. It’s all about perspective and the unique perspective of an individual with I/DD is the most valuable resource we have as a movement.

“[They] are quite simply the only people who can tell us what truly matters to them.”

The National Council of Self Advocates was developed to ensure that individuals with I/DD have a clear voice in creating lives that allow them meaningful choices for a promising future. It’s designed to help them be leaders in their communities, share their values of self determination and help educate their communities about I/DD. We invite anyone with I/DD who is a member of The Arc to participate in or contribute to the Council and let us hear your voice!

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Q&A with Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman

This month, The Arc’s blog will feature a Q & A with members of The Arc’s national office staff to help raise awareness of issues important to the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Amy Goodman is the co-director of the Autism Now National Resource and Information Center and is on the autism spectrum.

Q. Amy, as a person who is on the autism spectrum, help us raise some awareness during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Are there any myths or popular misconceptions about autism that you would like to help dispel?

“Individuals on the autism spectrum can work, should work and make some of the best employees.”

A. Yes, it’s a myth that individuals with autism or Asperger’s syndrome cannot work because of their disability. Not true. Individuals on the autism spectrum can work, should work and make some of the best employees. An individual just needs to find an environment that is accepting of disabilities, a supervisor that has some experience working with individuals on the spectrum, and a boss who understands their unique characteristics and how they can fit in to help make others aware of what it is like to live with a disability. If more people would take the time to see the individual for who they are and what they can do and not focus on the disability maybe more individuals with autism or Asperger’s would be employed, which might solve the problem of having too many individuals on SSI. Or maybe not, but it’s a start.

March is the Month to Make Your Mark

We've Got the Power: Vote in 2012 – The Arc, for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month thanks to a 1987 Presidential Proclamation from Ronald Reagan, which was the direct result of the advocacy efforts of The Arc. A lot has changed since then, more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are living and thriving in their communities rather than institutions, there are more opportunities, more protections and more respect for and inclusion of people with I/DD in their communities. But we must remember that many of those advancements were hard won. Advocacy was the impetus for many of the positive changes in our society, such as the creation of DD Awareness Month. And that will continue only as long as we fight for it.

In 2012, a pivotal Presidential election year, we are fighting to protect Medicaid. Since many people with disabilities rely on publicly funded services to fully participate in their communities, policy makers need to know you are concerned about continuing those services in the face of budget cuts during tough economic times.  Take advantage of March to make your mark on the candidates who hope to hold office in 2013 and beyond. Use Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month as a reason to get involved and get active today!

What Can You Do?

  • Help us educate candidates about the issues concerning people with I/DD. Learn more about public policy that impacts people with I/DD and then write letters and email and go to campaign events to tell the candidates what you expect them to do to earn your vote.
  • Find a local chapter of The Arc and get involved. Over the coming months we will be working through our national chapter network to help people talk to the candidates, register to vote, get to the polls and collectively make their mark!
  • Consider attending The Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. in April. Each year we spend two days covering current public policy in depth to prepare you for a third day on Capitol Hill actually meeting with your Members of Congress and discussing the issues.

Look for more information about our We’ve Got the Power Campaign to engage voters and candidates over the crucial months leading up to Election Day. Together, we do have the power and we can continue to create change!