Supporting Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in Your School


Developmental Disabilities Awareness MonthDevelopmental Disabilities Awareness Month

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March as “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” Much progress has been made since that time toward the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life, including education, employment, and community living. However, there is still work to be done. For example, bullying of students with special needs has become a serious—and growing—national problem. Some reports indicate that nearly 85% of students with special needs experience bullying. And stereotypes about people with disabilities remain, contributing to the continued high unemployment rate among people with disabilities.


The Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities and Inclusion

Recent estimates show that about one in six children in the U.S., between the ages of three and 17 (about 15 percent), have one or more developmental disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities are defined as impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas, and include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Learning or intellectual disabilities
  • Vision impairment
  • Other developmental delays

The good news is that the number of students with disabilities who are spending a majority of their day inside the regular classroom is increasing, according to the 40th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2018. From 2007 through 2016, the percentage of students ages six through 21 served under IDEA, Part B, educated inside the regular class 80% or more of the day increased from 57.2% to 63.1%.


Increasing Awareness and Promoting Inclusion in Our Schools

With a greater number of students with disabilities spending a greater part of their day in the regular classroom, strategies and activities that help students better understand the needs and differences of their peers with disabilities, foster peer relationships, and help students develop empathy can have positive outcomes for all students.


Each year, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) holds a campaign for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to raise awareness about developmental disabilities, communicate the importance of inclusion, and share stories of individuals with disabilities.


In addition, Special Olympics, Best Buddies and other organizations have created the Spread the Word campaign with a focus on the creation of a new reality: inclusion for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The campaign is intended to engage schools, organizations, and communities to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Our goal with Exceptional Child is to provide schools and districts with resources, through online professional development courses, that will help better prepare ALL teachers and school staff to support ALL students in an inclusive learning environment. But during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we feel it is also important to share some resources provided by other organizations that can help you actively promote inclusion with your students, teachers, and entire school community.


Please contact us at 1.800.434.0154 or request a demo if you’re interested in learning more about how our online courses for teachers and paraeducators can help build the capacity of your staff to create a more effective inclusive learning environment. 

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