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'There were a lot of barriers.' Raising awareness about intellectual and developmental disabilities

A local mother shares the challenges her daughter faces living with an intellectual and developmental disability.

YORK, Pa. — March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and many people are raising awareness about the challenges people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) continue to face–and work to overcome. 

Claudia Summerson, York, used to worry about whether her daughter could have an everyday life. Her daughter, Abbie, was diagnosed with Autism/IDD at the age of 4.

“She’s very obsessive compulsive so she likes a very routine structure through the day. There were a lot of barriers,” explained Summerson.

Thirteen years ago, Abbie, 35, moved into a group home at Penn-Mar Human Services. The organization helps people with IDD foster independence and lead full lives by giving them access to housing, education and supported employment opportunities.  

“Many times, we work with the business to help them decide how to create a job that is beneficial to both them and the person that we support,” said Greg Miller, CEO of Penn-Mar.

This March marks the 40th Anniversary of Penn-Mar. What started as a small idea by 12 families exploded into an organization that provides services to nearly 2,000 people a year. Penn-mar is working to break down barriers and stereotypes around people with IDD.

“What they need are opportunities and social outlets, skilled training,” added Miller. “They need exposure to the things in life that we get exposed to in life, to determine what they want.”

What Abbie always wanted was an everyday life. Now, her mom no longer has to worry because Abbie has that life with Penn-Mar.

“It’s such a blessing to have Abbie safe. She’s happy. She loves her staff. They’re her friends. Without the staff, Abbie wouldn’t be successful out in the community,” Summerson said.

If you are interested in joining the Penn-Mar team or want to know more about their services, visit their website.

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