Incidents of developmental disability are on the rise. Not just autism. ADHD is on the rise along with other incidents of developmental disability. Mental health and other health care professionals don’t know why this is. There have been the usual speculations about toxins in the environment, diet, overstimulation and genes, as well as the more the more desperate straws of vaccinations and shadowy malfeasances.

All interesting and worthwhile topics but not really for this space or for this unqualified moderator.

Not surprisingly, the incidents of hate crimes against people with developmental disabilities has also spiked. Overall numbers are still low but any jump in that is cause for concern.

What it all means I won’t pretend to have answers for. But one thing I do know. The problems left unresolved in the field of services and advocacy over the past ten to fifteen years, and there are many, are only going to get worse with any level of increased demand.

I know I’ve been harping on this in the past few blogs. It’s one of the reasons I’ve taken a few longer breaks than planned. I look for other topics but keep coming back to the fact that I believe we’re heading toward some rough times. This cuts across many areas—economic, social, public policy, community, even philosophical if you’ll allow me a brief, wild tangent.

As I said above, all important and interesting topics but not all for this space.

What is related however and very much for this space and for the developmental disability advocacy community to keep its eyes on is an overall isolation and pervasive inattention from and to what’s going on around us.

Our communities have fragmented and everyone has become more and more isolated, social media notwithstanding. Despite, and even in many ways because of, our technological wonders, we are even more pressed for time and wrapped up in our own worlds. Our news comes from sources that reinforce what we already think we know. We’ve come to believe that our public institutions and services are hopelessly dysfunctional or, worse, malevolent.

This malaise and disaffection has been reduced to clever and snide sound bites but it is no joke for the growing numbers of people who rely on public assistance to maintain and survive. Forget about improvement and advancement.

For people with developmental disabilities, letting go of the improvement and advancement goals and then scrambling to preserve maintenance and survival, which I fear is already happening and has been for a number of years, will be a real tragedy.

Admittedly, I am out here on the fringes. I would welcome feedback from individual and official sources that in New Jersey we are still moving forward on expanding community supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families. That schools are continuing to offer more advanced and appropriate regular classroom supports for students with all range of developmental issues. That adults with developmental disabilities are finding increased competitive job opportunities throughout the marketplace. That contrary to national trends NJ has already been preparing for dramatic increases in service demands and has launched new public awareness efforts to ensure that people with developmental disabilities are familiar to and accepted by their neighbors. That the state is close to closing the two developmental centers it is supposed to be closing and has plans in the works for at least two more, as we all know must happen to allow for some of those other initiatives mentioned above as well as many others sitting in limbo.

Because I haven’t heard about any of those progresses being made. In fact, what little I do hear about leans the other way. Backwards. I hope that’s not true. If it is, the only way to counter balance that is the way the advocacy community has in the past. By coming to together and speaking in unity.

More about that next time. Next week I promise, as I work to shake off my own cobwebs. And, please, let me know what you think. It helps me think.

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Disability in Focus