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Playground equipment-Everyone can make a difference

Playground equipment-Everyone can make a difference


March is the harbinger of spring and rebirth. The perfect month to be designated Developmental Disabilities Month. A time to recognize that everyone has something to contribute, and that we can all learn from one another. Established in 1987 by President Reagan, Americans were called upon to help people with developmental disabilities reach their potential by offering encouragement and providing opportunities.
I am a child of the 90s, a time of florescent colors and big hair, but also a decade when important issues that were difficult to discuss were in the spotlight. It was about creating awareness of the plights of those less fortunate, think Ryan White and We Are the World. In fact, it was a time when many organizations were created to promote awareness and actively help.
Growing up I never saw children with disabilities in school. There were no children in wheelchairs or with developmental disabilities in my classes. I was surprised that my friend had a sister I never met because she had Down Syndrome and lived in a special group home.
I never thought of the kids in special education classes as having disabilities if they were slow learners or troubled teens bucking authority. It wasn't until later I heard about dyslexia and other learning disabilities.There are now nationwide efforts in schools to prevent bullying of those who are different.
Today, children with disabilities both physical and developmental are mainstreamed in schools and in other organizations, such as in our church. Our school district allows children with disabilities to continue to be involved in certain school activities like chorus and drama productions until they are 21 because of the positive aspects socialization affords them.
My younger daughter has a friend who is wheelchair bound due to cystic fibrosis, and has assisted her in several drama and musical productions. They have developed a friendship and trust. My daughter tells me that she is as talkative as any other teenager and even uses Facebook to message my older daughter at college. Other children with developmental disabilities participate in chorus and the students often help keep them focused and on task. They delight in being in the spotlight, seeing people smile and applaud for them building their self-esteem.
A local dance studio my girls used to attend created a special class for people of all ages with various levels of ability, including my daughter's friend. It was a joy to see how proud they were to be involved.
And what about the parents of these children who are more publically visible and active in society? They are fiercely proud of their kids, their involvement in activities and their acceptance by their peers. Society today has empowered them with support and a voice. They have become leaders for creating opportunities for their children and educating us about their disabilities. By integrating these children in school and other societal activities, others get to know, engage with encourage and become more caring, compassionate and understanding. They, too, have become advocates. By recognizing that anyone with a disability is more than their disability, we can become better human beings.
It is March time for our high school spring musical. It will be the last performance for my daughter's friend, but her impact on everyone will live on in each of the people whose lives she touched. I encourage everyone to help support families of children and relatives with developmental disabilities continue to have opportunities and make a positive impact in society.
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