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March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

What is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month?

Every year in March, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and its Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM). This month, we raise awareness about the services and supports offered by DHS and the Arkansans who benefit from them.

DHS believes that the almost 70,000 Arkansans with developmental disabilities and delays and their families should have choices when selecting services that will help them thrive. That’s why we offer high-quality services in homes and communities as well as in 24-hour residential programs. We believe that our clients should have access to services in the least restrictive settings to meet their needs and that they have the constitutional right to live and learn and experience life just like any other Arkansan.

At DHS, we recognize the value of inclusion. We recognize the importance of supports and services. We recognize that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and delays make our state and our world a better, more diverse place to live.

To that end, DDAM strives to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.

The core message of our DDAM campaign this year is “Don’t ‘dis’ my abilities.” These Arkansans who may be considered disabled are actually just differently abled, and we want to celebrate and honor the unique and important contributions they make every day.

What Programs are Available for People with Developmental Disabilities?

Eight primary programs and services are available through DHS for those with developmental disabilities in Arkansas:

  1. Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT)
  2. Early Intervention Day Treatment (EIDT)
  3. First Connections
  4. Children with Chronic Health Conditions
  5. Autism Waiver
  6. Adult Developmental Day Treatment (ADDT)
  7. Community and Employment Support (CES) Waiver
  8. Speech Therapy/Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy

To learn more about these services, visit the Developmental Disabilities Services main website.

What are Developmental Disabilities?

Developmental disabilities (DD) are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. Another similar term you might hear is intellectual disability (ID). Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills.

Many people with disabilities want to live independently in the community. And with the right supports and services, that can become a reality! An inclusive community is a place where people with disabilities have freedom, equality, and opportunity to participate fully in their community. Some people with disabilities may need supports so they can fully participate in their communities.

DDS also operates five human development centers (or HDCs) for individuals with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities. These 24-hour residential facilities provide expert care to Arkansans who need more supports than are normally available in their own communities. The HDCs are a part of the continuum of services to individuals with intellectual disabilities in Arkansas and collaborate with community-based programs administering services through the Arkansas Medicaid Waiver Program.

Ways to Help Make Your Community Inclusive and Accessible

Educate – Educate others about the abilities people with developmental disabilities possess. For example, some disabilities are visible (a person who uses a wheelchair or crutches to ambulate), while other disabilities may not be easily recognized or seen by the eye (cognitive impairments that affect the way a person speaks, learns, or interacts with others).

Employ – Competitive, integrated employment is a key part of living a meaningful and inclusive life in the community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). However, the majority of people with I/DD remain either unemployed or underemployed despite their ability, desire, and willingness to work.

Community Living – Community living and participation means being able to live where and with whom you choose; work and earn a living wage; participate in meaningful community activities based on personal interests; have relationships with friends, family and significant others; be physically and emotionally healthy; be able to worship where and with whom you choose (if desired); have opportunities to learn, grow and make informed choices; and carry out responsibilities of citizenship such as paying taxes and voting.

Don’t “Dis” My Abilities

The core message of our DDAM campaign this year is, “Don’t ‘dis’ my abilities,” which is a play on words between “dis” and “disabilities”; the definition of “dis” is to speak disrespectfully or criticize. The phrase emphasizes that individuals who are considered disabled are capable of more than many people give them credit for and that they deserve to be treated with respect.

Thank you to the following Arkansans for helping us educate the public this year on the programs we offer to help individuals with developmental disabilities or delays:

Tate Parfitt

Tate has received early intervention services through ACCESS for almost four years. They have helped him learn and progress to his greatest potential, all while providing a loving and healthy environment for him to thrive in. His favorite thing to do for fun is listen to music and dance along to it. Tate would not be able to do all that he can today without these services, and they have completely changed his life for the better.

Ricky Withers

Ricky is a resident at the Conway Human Development Center (CHDC) and has made lasting friendships with both residents and staff during his time at the CHDC. The staff at the CHDC have helped him build his functional skills to enhance his quality of life, and you can see how much Ricky enjoys his life in that great smile of his. Ricky also enjoys being involved with work programs and loves Special Olympics!

Troy Perkins

Troy is one of our beneficiaries who has been a resident at Conway Human Development Center (CHDC) since he was just six years old. CHDC is one of Arkansas’ five state-managed residential training facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities or delays. Troy has bonded with many of the staff and his peers while consistently making progress building his functional skills to further his independence. In his free time, Troy loves being involved with church services and assisting with prayers.

Drew Mabry

Drew is a charming 11-year-old beneficiary of the Arkansas Autism Partnership program. This program offered Drew three years of in-home service, and thanks to the Medicaid waiver, he has participated in over 3,500 hours of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. As a result, Drew has made significant gains in his life and proven his doubters wrong.

Drew’s talents include playing piano, kickboxing, and competitive spelling where he was named the 2022 Polk County Spelling Bee champion.

Londyn Smith

Londyn is a beneficiary of our Allied Therapy program, which provides equine-assisted therapy through a nonprofit called Beyond Boundaries. The inclusion of hippotherapy into Londyn’s physical therapy plan of care is helping her improve her strength, endurance, and participation in recreational activities with her family.

Londyn also has a fantastic sense of humor and loves to swim!

Michael Boles

Michael has been a part of the St. Francis Area Developmental Center for over 30 years and proudly serves on the maintenance crew. SFADC provides transportation to and from his apartment so that he can contribute to the community while maintaining his independence.

He is formally recognized by Forrest City High School as the Mustangs’ #1 fan, giving him celebrity status among the locals. Michael’s story is an important reminder that individuals who are considered disabled are capable of more than many people give them credit for and that they deserve to be treated with respect.

Stephanie Blansett

Stephanie is a sweet young girl from Lawrence County who lives with Phenylketonuria (PKU). PKU is a genetic condition requiring specialized services through the Children with Chronic Health Conditions (CHC) program. Registered Nurses are able to provide Stephanie with the care she needs to thrive.

Stephanie is a talented painter and an avid animal lover who raises her own chickens.

Cynthia Williams

Cynthia receives care from Integrity Inc., a nonprofit organization licensed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide alternative, community-based services for adults with developmental disabilities. Although she is nonverbal, Cynthia is able to communicate via her iPad to maintain her independence.

As one of our artisans at The Blue Umbrella, Cynthia uses computer software to create a variety of greeting cards that are sold in the store. She believes in not holding yourself back and encourages others to pursue their passions regardless of the obstacles they face.

To learn more about the programs and services DHS offers individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities or delays, please visit