Overcoming the Stigmas of Being I/DD

Dr. CJ Cook, DBABlog

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Understanding I/DD

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) encompass a variety of conditions that affect an individual’s intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. People with I/DD may have challenges with learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and social skills. However, like everyone else, they have unique strengths, talents, and potential.

Empowering Self-Advocacy

Individuals with I/DD must be encouraged to advocate for themselves. No one can better express the need for change or describe the experience of living with I/DD than those who are directly affected. Self-advocacy means having the confidence to speak up about one’s needs, rights, and desires. Supporting self-advocacy involves teaching communication skills, providing opportunities for leadership, and, most importantly, respecting the voices of those with I/DD. By empowering individuals with I/DD to advocate for themselves, we help them gain confidence, independence, and the ability to shape their own lives.

Fostering Inclusion

Inclusion means ensuring that individuals with I/DD have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in all aspects of life. This includes education, employment, social activities, and community involvement. Creating inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and accepted is crucial. This can be achieved by promoting accessible spaces, providing necessary accommodations, and encouraging diverse representation in all areas of society.

Promoting Positive Attitudes

Changing the way we think and talk about I/DD is another important step. Instead of focusing on what people with I/DD can’t do, we should highlight their strengths and achievements. Using respectful and person-first language—such as saying “a person with a disability” instead of “a disabled person”—can make a big difference in how individuals are perceived and treated.

Supporting Families and Caregivers

Families and caregivers of individuals with I/DD also face stigma and need support. Providing them with resources, connecting them with support groups, and recognizing their efforts can help alleviate some of the burdens they carry. By supporting these families, we contribute to a more understanding and compassionate community.

Building a Community of Allies

Being an ally to an individual with an I/DD means standing up against stigma and discrimination, educating others, and promoting inclusive practices. Allies can be friends, family members, teachers, employers, or anyone who wants to make a positive impact. By working together, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for everyone.

Celebrating Diversity

Diversity enriches our lives and communities. Individuals with I/DD contribute to this diversity in many meaningful ways. We can appreciate the value they bring to our world by celebrating their unique perspectives and talents. Embracing diversity means recognizing that everyone has something valuable to offer regardless of their abilities.


Overcoming the stigmas associated with I/DD is a collective effort that demands awareness, inclusion, positive attitudes, support, empowerment, and allyship. By embracing these principles, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate society where everyone is valued and respected for who they are. Together, let’s build a world where individuals with I/DD can thrive and reach their full potential.

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Dr. CJ Cook, DBA

As Program Administrator, CJ is responsible for the proactive oversight of various units within IRC, including Community Management, Service Access and Equity, and Training and Development. CJ's oversight extends to Language Access and Cultural Competency (LACC), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), equity in the Purchase of Service (POS), and the National Core Indicator (NCI) project. Furthermore, CJ is tasked with managing the IRC's Performance Contract with DDS and overseeing Emergency Services.

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