If you are looking to make a difference in someone else’s life, you may want to consider working with people with developmental disabilities. One of the greatest benefits of working with people who have developmental disabilities is seeing them progress and, many times, achieve something previously thought impossible.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities include impairments in language, physical, learning, and behavioral. Specific conditions include things such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and learning disabilities. While many people with developmental disabilities simply want to fit in with and be accepted by their peers, some people with developmental disabilities exceed that desire and achieve great things.
Temple Grandin is among the most successful people with autism. Grandin was diagnosed at two, and her mother worked to make sure Grandin got quality academic and social opportunities. Grandin has said this included having her be a party hostess at eight, including shaking people’s hands and taking their coats. These social and life skills learned at a young age helped Grandin to achieve success as an adult.
She earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College, a Master’s in animal science from Arizona State University, and her Ph.D in animal science from the University of Illinois-Champaign. Grandin works as a professor at Colorado State University and has made significant contributions to the livestock industry. She is also an autism advocate. In her late teens, Grandin invented the “squeeze machine,” a device that provides a deep-pressure simulation, which helps to calm those with hypersensitivity problems, including those on the autism spectrum.
While not born deaf nor blind, Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing at nineteen months old due to an illness, possibly scarlet fever or meningitis. With the help of her tutor, Anne Sullivan, Keller was able to learn to read Braille as well as understand fingerspelling on the palm of her hand. She was the first deaf-blind person to get a Bachelor’s degree, when she graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe College in 1904.
While Keller was never able to master oral communication, she worked as a world-famous lecturer, with the help of an interpreter. Keller was also an author and political advocate. Her efforts helped to change people’s attitudes about those with disabilities, and in fact, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
For the early part of his childhood, Bonner Paddock did not know what was wrong with his legs and feet. He would walk on his tiptoes and bent knees. Despite his unusual walk, he continued to play sports with his brothers and peers. It was not until he was eleven that Paddock finally got a diagnosis, spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. Unlike more severe cases of cerebral palsy, where the individual is wheelchair-bound or needs aides to walk, Paddock was able to walk on his own.
While Paddock tried to hide his condition from people during his early adulthood, it was as he embraced his cerebral palsy that he started to make a difference for others with the condition. In 2006, Paddock ran his first marathon, raising money to help those with cerebral palsy. He was also the first person with cerebral palsy to climb Mount Kilimanjaro unassisted. In 2012, he was the first person with cerebral palsy to complete the Ironman World Championship.
For each of his adventures, Paddock’s goal has been to raise money for those with cerebral palsy, helping to raise awareness and help with things like therapy for children. He has also founded the OM Foundation, which works to raise money for children with disabilities.
Of course, these are just a few of the people who had developmental disabilities who were able to achieve great things in their lives. None of these people were able to do it on their own, though. Help from others, including family and friends allowed these people to rise above what was expected of them to achieve their goals.
Your passion and calling in life may be to become a vital part in the lives of people with developmental disabilities. You will get a feeling inside that keeps growing as you wake up every day knowing you are making a meaningful impact in their lives. ACLD is an established, quality organization which supports people with developmental disabilities and is currently seeking Direct Support Professionals for various locations across Long Island.
For information on Helping People to ASPIRE HIGHER by becoming a Direct Support Professional at ACLD, please apply online at www.acld.org. An EOE m/f/d/v.