Providing long-term care to the disabled

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Providing long-term care to the disabled


Developmental disabilities are mental and physical impairments caused by brain injuries or chromosomal abnormalities. They include learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Right now, they’re not getting as much attention as they deserve. A high proportion of developmental disabilities are severe and chronic. Data show that 36.4 percent of autism disorders and 24.4 percent of learning disabilities are “first degree.” This compares to 2.3 percent for physical disabilities, 14.1 percent for visual impairment and 2.2 percent for hearing impairment.

Naturally, a low percentage of those with developmental disorders can maintain routine lives on their own. They may be able to receive help from parents or care centers when they are young, but they often find it harder to live as they grow older.

Due to the special concerns associated with developmental disorders, other countries already have laws addressing such issues. The United States has the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, and Sweden has the Act on Special Services for Developmentally Disabled Persons. Japan has the Support for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. These countries provide civilian support in addition to assistance defined in the law.

Experts from abroad are coming to Korea to discuss these issues. Last month, Toru Oki, the head of the International Therapy Dog Association, visited. The blues singer has been training stray dogs to be therapy animals for 20 years. The therapy dogs become companions and therapists for those with disabilities, including developmental disorders, elderly people with dementia and reclusive young adults.

In Korea, a movement is growing to train stray dogs for use in therapy. Seo Hyeon-jeong, head of the World Art Therapy Association, is working with Oki to send a mix-breed dog to Japan for training. She will select a dog with “composure” from the dog shelter Around the Neighborhood in Daejeon.

Seo, who studied drama therapy, hosts an annual camp for families of people with developmental disabilities. She hopes that adults with developmental disabilities will be able to make a living by contributing to the care of stray dogs and training therapy dogs.

We all could become disabled some day, so people without disabilities are not “normal” but rather simply “not disabled.” Thus everyone in the country should be paying attention to this issue.

The first bill submitted to the 19th National Assembly was the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act. I hope it comes into force soon.

By Noh Jae-hyun

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo
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