About Penn Mar Human Services | Westminster, MD

About Penn-Mar


Penn-Mar Human Services’ mission is to support people to live courageously in pursuit of their best life.

Founded in 1981, Penn-Mar serves nearly 2000 adults with IDD each year through our community living, day learning, customized employment, family and peer supports, and respite programs in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Penn-Mar’s approach is innovative, person-centered, and successful, and through meaningful employment, community inclusion, and residential choice, the people Penn-Mar supports are empowered to live their best lives.

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About Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs)

What is an IDD?
Per the National Institutes of Health, intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are disorders that are usually present at birth and impact a person’s physical, intellectual, and/or emotional development. Many of these conditions affect multiple systems.

Intellectual disabilities start any time before a child turns 18 and are characterized by their impact on both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, like social and life skills.

Developmental disabilities are a broader category of lifelong disabilities that can be intellectual, physical, or both.

The term “IDD” is often used to describe this community collectively. Sometimes the IDD community is also referred to as “neurodivergent,” meaning someone whose brain functions differently.

What Causes an IDD?
There a number of reasons that someone may have an IDD. For some people, an IDD could develop before birth, like Down syndrome. For others, an IDD can occur later in life as the result of traumatic brain injury. With other IDDs, like Autism, the cause is unknown. The most common causes of IDDs are: genetic conditions, complications during pregnancy or birth, and diseases or toxic exposure.

IDDs are not contagious; you can’t catch one. They’re also not a mental illness, like depression, though people with an IDD may often have a “comorbid diagnosis,” meaning that they have two or more disorders or illnesses. For example, someone could have Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; a person could be diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as well as Depression.

There are no cures for IDDs, but people with IDDs live full and happy lives. They may just approach things differently than people who are “neurotypical,” or people who do not have intellectual or developmental differences.

How Do IDDs Impact People?
IDDs affect people differently. Each person experiences their IDD in a unique, personal way. Some people may need more support in certain areas of life than other people. Many people may have an IDD that presents more subtly. Even though their IDD may not be as apparent, it can still impact their daily lives.

How Common are IDDs?
It’s estimated that approximately 6.5 million people in the U.S. have an IDD. Globally, 1-3%, or as many as 200 million people, have an IDD.

What is a Direct Support Professional?

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Outside of immediate family, DSPs are often the most important person in someone with an IDD’s life.

These professionals come alongside someone with an IDD to help them live their most independent lives.

The DSP role is complex. In addition to providing the most basic supports, DSPs also:

  • Enhance the ability of the peopel they supports to lead independent lives by providing the support and information necessary to build self-esteem, and assertiveness; and to make decisions
  • Be knowledgeable about the range of effective communication strategies and skills necessary to establish a collaborative relationship with the person they support
  • Understand formal and informal assessment practices to respond to the needs, desires and interests
  • Be skilled in identifying and gaining access to the formal and informal supports available in the community
  • Facilitate services through participatory planning techniques in a collaborative and expeditious manner
  • Match specific supports and interventions to the unique needs of the individual and recognize the importance of friends, family and community relationships
  • Understand the diverse challenges facing the individuals they support (e.g., human rights, legal, administrative and financial) and be able to identify and use effective advocacy strategies to overcome such challenges
  • Mobilize resources necessary to assist an individual with their career and educational goals
  • Knowledge of crisis prevention, intervention and resolution techniques and match such techniques to the circumstances and the individual
  • Support the individual in the development of friendships and other relationships
  • Provide person-centered supports
  • Promote health and wellness
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