Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
As we kick off Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, I wanted to start off my official tour of S:US programs and sites by going to a day habilitation program in Queens. I was greeted by Chief Operating Officer, Developmental Disabilities Services Monica Santos, Senior VP of Health & Clinical Services Courtney Morgan, VP of Day Services Jajaida Gonzalez, and Program Director Fitzgerald Pierre-Jean, who welcomed me into a creatively decorated room full of Black History Month pictures and decorations. I was impressed by the space and the different colorfully decorated rooms to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Easter as well as a wall full of pictures of the people we support attending community activities at Dave & Busters, Coney Island and other fun outings. I could feel the palpable commitment, dedication and love for the individuals that attend the program throughout the building.
Photo credit: S:US
At S:US we serve approximately 800 people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), as well as neurologic and psychiatric disorders. S:US’ day habilitation program reduces the barriers to community inclusion by building each individual’s practical skills. These include communication and self-preservation, community awareness, independent living and pre-vocational skills through volunteerism in the community. S:US offers a full spectrum of housing, wellness, and supportive services for people with I/DD. We provide a comprehensive array of services, including life skills development, employment readiness, job placement, nursing, and other clinical supports.
In 1987, President Reagan recognized March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to increase “public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities” and to provide the “encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.” While awareness and sensitivity about disabilities has increased over the last few decades, it has not always been easy and it has taken significant struggle and advocacy efforts to reach our current understanding.
The month reminds us to reflect on the fact that we are all part of a broad spectrum of intellectual and physical functioning and pushes us all to be more understanding, compassionate and focused on the work we need to continue to do as we strive to help people reach their fullest potential by creating opportunities for meaningful relationships, full integration into the community and personal growth.
Please join me in continuing to support our collective effort at improving the lives of people with I/DD and their families today, this month and every month. The work that S:US and its amazing staff do day-in and day-out is commendable and as Jajaida told me during my visit, “The commitment and dedication of our staff is one of the biggest unmeasurable assets S:US has to offer. We’re thrilled Dr. Petit was able to get a closer look at our day habilitation program and learn more about how we support people with intellectual/developmental disabilities to thrive.”