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 March: Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Willows Way Striving to Increase Awareness for
Developmental Disabilities, Available Programs in the Community

According to the National Organization on Disability/Louis Harris & Associates Survey of Americans with Disabilities, an estimated 2.5 million people in the United States have a developmental disability, and an estimated 20.3 million families in the United States have 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 by the condition, and many more are not aware of the programs and resources in their own communities dedicated to assisting them, 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 developmental disabilities. 

"As part of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March, we want to inform people about available programs that promote independence and dignity for adults and their families living with a developmental disability," said Steele. "At Willows Way, we believe all people with developmental disabilities who seek the kind of personalized support that nurtures the body, mind, and spirit will experience a sense of home, a feeling of security, and an avenue for personal growth in the community." 

Developmental disabilities are a diverse group of chronic conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, pervasive developmental disorders, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities. 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 four different programs to assist adults with developmental disabilities:

  • REALITIES - Can provide up to 8 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 - 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.

  • COMMUNITY INTEGRATION AND EDUCATION - 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 developmental disabilities or Willows Way's programs, visit or call 636-947-6591.

About Willows Way

Willows Way promotes independence and personal growth for people with intellectual and physical challenges through a variety of social-service programs. These include: Realities, which provides up to 8 hours of individualized services per week; Individualized Supported Living, which provides up to 24-hour-a-day support to allow individuals to live independently based on their needs and goals; Community Integration and Education, which offers participants daily structured activities designed to promote social networking, community involvement, volunteerism and physical activities; and Project HEART, which provides stimulating, person-centered health education classes, skills training and resource information to people with developmental disabilities. For more information about Willows Way, visit or call 636-947-6591.