As we observe Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we recognize the valuable contributions people with developmental disabilities make to our society. Celebrations are taking place nationwide, like the Side-by-Side social media campaign, which allows individuals to share pictures, videos and stories that reflect people with and without developmental disabilities living, learning and earning together. And the Know Your Right to Vote campaign encourages individuals with disabilities to register to vote and know their voting rights.

During this commemoration, REST (Respite Education & Support Tools) also would like to recognize those who care for loved ones who have cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Of the nearly 5 million U.S. citizens who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, 72 percent live at home with a family caregiver, according to ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help), a national respite organization.

Through our respite educational courses, REST continues to build networks of support for caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities, as the need for respite continues. As noted in a March 2015 ARCH Fact Sheet:

“Although the types of formal respite services have increased over the years with in-home respite, community-based agency respite, emergency respite, facility-based respite and adult day services, the need is greater than the current supply can provide, especially with limited state and federal fiscal resources.”

Since 2013, we have strived to make a difference – and our roster of REST Trainers and Companions™ continues to grow. As more and more caregivers, like Joan Anderson of Westchester, Ill., receive respite, they return to their caregiving duties refreshed and recharged.
Joan has benefitted from a drop-off respite program at The Moody Church, Chicago, which has used the REST program to train its volunteers.

“I can do so much more – and I can give Michelle more because of additional free time I have for myself,” said Joan, who is caregiver to her younger sister, Michelle, 45, who has a developmental disability.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness – and get involved. To learn how you can make a difference, visit www.restprogram.org.