DDR is 5 years old!

by the Editor of New Developments (the DDR Newsletter)

The fifth anniversary of DDR is April 25. On that memorable day in 1994, four practical women met over coffee to discuss their concerns about the rapidly growing numbers of children with special needs. Kelly Dorfman observed that many being referred to her for nutritional consultations had a history of chronic ear infections and antibiotics. Sabra Gelfond’s speech-language practice consisted mostly of young, non-verbal children with the same health issues. Patricia Lemer’s educational consulting services included children with more serious problems. And then the mother of a child with developmental delays cried, "Let’s start a registry!" So the four joined forces with enormous enthusiasm, although without much money or business acumen.

While some of the key players have changed, the initial enthusiasm remains. DDR owes its present success to hard-working volunteer Board members and a paid staff of two who fielded over 1000 telephone, e-mail and written requests for information last year. Fund-raising and conference proceeds have allowed the organization to move from a home office to a building in downtown Bethesda, MD. And as for business acumen - in May, Executive Director, Patricia Lemer will receive her M.S. in Business from Johns Hopkins University.

DDR was founded to provide a clearinghouse for parents and professionals in need of resources and treatment options for children with attention deficits (ADD), learning and behavior problems, delayed development, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) and autism. Families were identified using a questionnaire that special needs publications, therapists’ practices and educational programs distributed. Their children became part of the "Registry." As professionals learned about DDR, the organization was renamed Developmental Delay Resources, to better reflect its networking aspect.

Many families that responded to the original questionnaire are still DDR members. They have educated themselves and their health-care practitioners about a variety of treatment options. Their testimonies speak to the power of nutrition, sensory-motor therapies and developmentally appropriate programming. Many have "recovered" children from PDD and ADD. Most professional members use a multi-disciplinary approach, combining vision techniques with occupational therapy and movement with language therapy.

Since 1994 we have made great strides in understanding the relationship between children’s diagnoses and those chronic ear infections, antibiotics, nutrition, immunizations, environmental toxins, and the immune system. Many doctors now discourage antibiotics for ear infections and encourage holding off cow’s milk for the first year of life. DAN! considers ADD and autism as a spectrum of disorders and publishes a protocol to identify immune, digestive and metabolic causes. Dr. Andrew Wakefield has found rubella virus in the digestive tracts of many children with delays. And secretin, an amino acid present in the gut of well-functioning people, but absent in those with autism, is being called the connection between the gut and the brain.

DDR celebrates the progress made in understanding developmental delays. We have come a long way from our simple conjectures five years ago. We hope fervently, however, that we need not "celebrate" our tenth anniversary. In the coming five years, we look forward to collaborating with other like-minded groups to increase public awareness of the environmental causes of developmental delays. Once we know how to prevent children from being affected, DDR may be unnecessary. Meanwhile, share our quarterly newsletter and annual directory with family, friends and colleagues.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 4, Number 4 - Spring, 1999]

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Page last modified: February 23, 2009
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