March is Developmental Disabilities Month in Jefferson County. The theme this year is "Look Beyond!"
The Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities Board is encouraging residents to understand that everyone wins when people with disabilities are welcomed into local neighborhoods, workplaces, houses of worship and schools.
It is often attitudinal barriers that affect everyday life for people with developmental disabilities. In addressing those barriers through positive awareness efforts, fears and negative attitudes can be replaced with knowledge and understanding.
Look beyond the disability and you will discover a person with the same hopes and dreams as you.
Look beyond the disability and you will see a person who is willing to work hard. Look beyond the disability and you will discover a heart full of love.
Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities has been providing services to county residents for more than four decades.
Its board serves about 50 children in the early intervention and preschool programs, 85 students at the School of Bright Promise and 165 adults.
Services are provided from birth to death thanks to county taxpayers.
There are many agencies that work together to help the developmentally disabled, including the county health department, Jefferson Behavioral Health Services, Jefferson County Educational Service Center, school districts, Jefferson County Family and Children First Council and the county Job and Family Services.
County mental retardation boards were created in 1967, but it wasn't until 1982 that mental retardation and developmental disabilities became its own state department.
Jefferson County voters in 1968 opened their hearts and wallets for the mentally retarded by approving a tax levy. The School of Bright Promise opened in 1971, and the Jeffco Sheltered Workshop opened in 1972.
Birth to death services are offered to hundreds of families who have a loved one with a developmental disability.
Those families were lost at the beginning on how to care for their son or daughter. But the agency came to their aid and provided education and life skills that allowed the person with a developmental disability to grow.
The name mental retardation was removed from county board names a several years ago. Developmental disabilities is more appropriate because it encompasses the population served by the Jefferson County board.
School districts in Jefferson and Harrison counties, the Jefferson County Educational Services Center and the Jefferson County Board of Development Disabilities got together several years ago and opened the Regional Spectrum Center to help with severe cases of autism.
The Developmental Disabilities Board also works to help young adults find employment. School boards also are now giving diplomas to students with developmental disabilities if they meet their educational goals. A high school diploma is key to finding a job.
Residents with a developmental disability at one time faced an uncertain future.
But now they can look beyond.