Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority Celebrates Developmental Disabilities Month.

March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month.  The goal of DD Awareness Month is to increase the public’s awareness and understanding of people who have developmental disabilities. Many people feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities.  Much of this discomfort is from lack of contact with people who have disabilities and a sense of awkwardness and uncertainty as to how to speak and act in their presence.

Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority (CMH) serves approximately 130 individuals with an Intellectual/Developmental Disability.  CMH offers a continuum of services to include Case Management, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Housing Assistance, Vocational Rehabilitation, Supported Employment, Community Living Supports, and Respite.

Two questions most often asked are “How do I interact with someone with a disability?” and “What if I say the wrong thing?”  The most important thing to remember when interacting with people with disabilities is that they are people.  Their disability is just one of the many characteristics they have.  They have the same likes and dislikes and wants and needs as everyone else.  The following will guide you when interacting with people who have disabilities.

  • Show the person the same respect that you wish to be treated with.
  • Before you help someone, ask if they would like assistance.
  • Speak naturally and talk directly to the person, not to their friend or companion.
  • Talk with the person even though they may not use words to communicate.
  • Recognize the person’s limitations and be patient, allowing the person enough time to complete tasks independently.
  • Be aware of personal space.  Do not touch, move, or lean on mobility aids.
  • People with disabilities are not all alike and have a wide variety of skills and personalities.
  • Be aware that there are many people with hidden disabilities that are not apparent.  Just because you cannot see a disability does not mean it does not exist.

The most important thing to remember when interacting with people who have disabilities is that they are people, just with more specific needs.  Treat and interact with them just like you would anyone else.

An event scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 16th at Tacconelli’s restaurant in Ironwood will bring together individuals with Developmental Disabilities and their support network for the purpose of advocating for their concerns.  Please consider joining us!

Rich Maher is the Community Services Director at CMH.

Developmental Disabilities Month