MARCH is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month! The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the National Disability Rights Network have created a campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as barriers that people with disabilities sometimes face when connecting with the communities they live in.

This week (March 1-10, 2017) the focus is on education. Students with disabilities have the right to be educated alongside their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible. Through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA was created to assist students with disabilities reach their full potential via an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. The IEP lays out the framework in which accommodations and/or modifications are made to the curriculum in order for each individual student to succeed. We’re not talking about handing out “certificates of completion in high school,” but allowing students earn a high school diploma.

Students with disabilities must first become eligible for an IEP by being assessed by a Child Study Team. Should there be a need for a student to receive accommodations or modifications in order to progress in their education an IEP Team made up of teachers, itinerant teacher, service provides, parents, and when appropriate the student, meet to decide the goals and supports required to help the student reach those goals. A student with an IEP may be able to remain in school until their 22nd birthday.

Gone are the days when students with disabilities were all housed in one room or building. Evidence shows that many students succeed and grow as individuals when they learn side by side with other students without disabilities. Educating our students about disabilities is the first step in creating an environment in which friendships develop and all our students become successful.

For more information about Developmental Disabilities Month and/or the IEP process, please contact the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc. at 235-7273/4 or visit us online at www.nmpasi.org/.