Board proclaims March Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March 8, 2018

Four-year-old JoJo loves going to the library, the park and pre-school.

He’s a bundle of energy, whose curiosity can take him -- in a matter of minutes -- from pretending to man the security desk at a busy office building to rubbing elbows with elected officials. 

Siulee Chan and her son JoJo
“He’s very active. He has to go in the community,” his mom, Siulee Chan, said. “He has to see people and do things.” 

JoJo can now add to the fast-growing list of people he’s met: the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. And to the list of things he’s done: become the highlight of their board meeting. 

JoJo, who has cerebral palsy, and his mom joined commissioners Thursday as they proclaimed March as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Month in Multnomah County. 

A developmental disability is a condition such as cerebral palsy, autism or epilepsy that a person is born with, or obtained before age 22, and which causes significant delays in everyday functioning. A person with an intellectual disability has significantly below-average intellectual and adaptive skills as measured by standardized testing administered by a qualified psychologist. 

The awareness month is intended to underscore the importance of inclusion, to promote respect for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to educate people on the differing abilities of people with I/DD and to bring attention to the stories of individuals, like JoJo, demonstrate that a successful life is possible. 

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are fully realized individuals desiring to live full lives in communities of their choice,” reads the proclamation adopted by the board. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are valued members of our community who make significant contributions to society.” 

JoJo and his mom were joined at Thursday’s meeting by Nena Enyinwa, whose 11-year-old son Malachi, is on the autism spectrum. 

“Siulee and Jojo and Nena and Malachi are examples of the many diverse, resilient and incredible members of the IDD community in Multnomah County,,” said Sherrelle Jackson, a manager in the Multnomah County Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services Division of the Department of County Human Services. “We are grateful to celebrate with them in raising awareness for IDD in March.” 

Multnomah County is committed to helping people with intellectual or developmental disabilities experience personal growth and development, enjoy meaningful relationships, safely live and fully participate in communities and activities they choose. 

Siulee Chan, JoJo (left) and Nena Enyinwa (second from right) join County staff and the Board of Commissioners after the board proclaimed March as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Among other things, Multnomah County Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services Division: 

  • Serves individuals living independently, in specialized housing or in the family home.
  • Assesses individual needs and aids in order to achieve and maintain personal outcomes as outlined in the Individual Support Plan (ISP).
  • Coordinates with state, public and private agencies to provide services.
  • Assists individuals in accessing employment, relief care and behavioral consultation.
  • Guides and supports families in planning for the future.

Enyinwa said the County’s services have allowed her to “maximize (Malachi’s) quality of life to give him the best life possible.” But, she said, her relationship with the County goes beyond just receiving or being directed to services for Malachi.

Nena Enyinwa tells the board about her "sweet, loving, athletic and kind" son, Malachi.
“I’m thankful for my case manager, who has been a strong advocate for my family,” Enyinwa said. Enyinwa’s case manager, Danielle Wilkes, is certified to offer culturally-specific services to African American families.

Wilkes has not only been assisting with Malachi’s direct needs, she also has been “pouring into me strength and encouraging words when sometimes it feels a little daunting trying to do everything that’s required to give my baby the best life,” Enyinwa said. 

Chan said her case manager, Sue Hartinger, has become almost like a sister. A single parent, Chan said she finds comfort in knowing that someone else can help to get JoJo’s needs met if something were to happen to her. 

“It’s nice to know that you can have somebody take care of your whole family as a unit,” Chan said. 

As part of its effort to raise awareness, the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services Division has launched a bus advertising campaign that will extend through the month of March.

The campaign is featured on 22 TriMet buses and features pictures of local young people of diverse backgrounds who are successfully working, learning and living with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. 

The division will host an informational fair about its services on May 1, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the DHS Self Sufficiency office at 11826 NE Glisan St. in Portland. The event is free and open to the public and will feature raffle prizes, music and activities for kids.

If you or someone you know is interested in being referred for County services, call 503.988.6258 to begin the application and evaluation process.