Developmental Disabilities: Myths Vs. Facts
Developmental Disabilities Myth 1: A developmental disability is the same as mental “illness”.
Fact: A developmental disability means that a person develops mentally at a below average rate. He or she may have difficulty in learning and social adjustment, but can learn. With the appropriate intervention and education, he or she can lead a satisfying and productive life in the community.
Developmental Disabilities Myth 2: A developmental disability is a contagious disease.
Fact: A developmental disability is not a disease and is certainly not contagious. It is a condition which affects an individual because of some change or damage with the developing brain and neurological system.
Developmental Disabilities Myth 3: Persons who have severe and profound developmental disabilities must be locked away in institutions for their own, and society’s, safety.
Fact: Systematic training efforts have proven that most people with severe and profound developmental disabilities can learn to at least care for their basic needs. Many can perform useful work with support and can otherwise adapt to normal patterns of life. It has been proven that the most effective environment for everyone to learn and develop is one which is in the community and which offers a family-like atmosphere of caring and nurturing.
Developmental Disabilities Myth 4: Educational and vocational training will not help persons who have developmental disabilities.
Fact: Most persons with developmental disabilities can learn, although at a slower rate, and are capable of living in the community with little or no support services. Early intervention is a major emphasis since it is proven that the sooner a person is diagnosed as having developmental disabilities and appropriate programming is started, the more productive and capable he or she will be for a meaningful life in the community. Vocational programs offer a variety of services to prepare individuals for work. They may learn a trade or receive supported employment help to find a job in a competitive work environment.
Developmental Disabilities Myth 5: We do not know what causes developmental disabilities and they cannot be prevented.
Fact: Developmental disabilities can be caused by any condition which impairs development of the brain during birth or in early childhood. More than 250 causes have been discovered but they account for only one-fourth of the causes of developmental disabilities.
The most well-known are:
- Rubella, or German measles, in the pregnant woman
- RH Factor
- Chromosomal abnormalities (i.e., Down Syndrome)
Developmental disabilities can be prevented in some cases. Some prevention strategies include:
- Access to good prenatal and postnatal care for mother and child.
- Improved nutrition in pregnant women and infants.
- Avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy.
- Newborn screening, such as PKU, to detect disorders like hypothyroidism.
- Routine screening and immunizations of mothers to prevent RH blood Factor.
- Use of child seats and seat belts to prevent head injuries.
- Screening for lead poisoning for all children under age 5.
Persons who have developmental disabilities are PEOPLE FIRST. They have the same needs and desires as everyone else. Treat them as individuals. Recognize their ABILITIES and not their disabilities.