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Willows Way Striving to Increase Awareness for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Available Community Programs

According to the National Organization on Disability/Louis Harris & Associates Survey of Americans with Disabilities, there are an estimated 2.5 million people in the United States with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and an estimated 20.3 million families in the United States with at least one member with a disability.

Unless people are personally affected in some way by a developmental disability, many don't realize just how many Americans and their families are impacted, and many more are not aware of the resources available in their own communities, according to Joy Steele, Executive Director of Willows Way, a non-profit organization based in St. Charles, MO that provides residential and community support to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). 

"As part of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we want to educate people about available programs that promote independence and dignity for adults and their families living with an intellectual or developmental disability," said Steele. "At Willows Way, we believe people of all abilities should have the opportunity to experience a sense of home, a feeling of security and an avenue for personal growth in the community.

Intellectual and developmental disabilities include a diverse group of chronic conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, pervasive developmental disorders, cerebral palsy, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and others. Individuals living with a developmental disability may find challenges in certain areas of life such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living skills.

Because developmental disabilities are so widespread and diverse, Willows Way has developed a variety of support programs focused on an individual's needs. Incorporated in 1990, Willows Way was one of the first organizations in the state of Missouri to provide person-centered, individualized supported living services.

"Willows Way's mission has always focused on promoting the dignity and independence of people with disabilities by building its support programs upon a person-centered philosophy, giving clients an active voice in the design and provision of our support services," said Steele.

Willows Way offers five different programs to assist adults with I/DD:

  • REALITIES - Can provide up to eight hours of individualized service weekly to approved adults. Services are designed specific to each client and often include support with items such as budgeting and bill payment, menu planning, comparison shopping, roommate and house searches, help with doctor's visits, advocacy and problem solving supports.
  • INDIVIDUALIZED SUPPORTED LIVING (ISL) - Provides customized in-home services for up to 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Supports are developed based on each individual's needs and focus on many areas such as skill development, recreation, social skill building, medical and personal care supports, transportation and household financial supports.
  • INDIVIDUALIZED SKILLS DEVELOPMENT/COMMUNITY INTEGRATION - Offers services primarily designed for clients not yet living independently. These services support the individual to build independent living skills while developing friendships and community connections.
  • REACHING INDEPENDENCE THROUGH SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT (RISE) - Weekday classes that are designed by participants and qualified staff and focus on social, educational and physical activities that can be accomplished within the local community.
  • PROJECT HEART - Evening educational classes that focus primarily on health and/or safety-related topics and may include: cooking and nutrition, exercising, personal hygiene, driver’s education, healthy relationships, problem solving, health and the human body, and internet security and privacy issues to name a few.

For more information about intellectual and developmental disabilities or Willows Way's programs, visit or call 636-947-6591.