In past generations, a family with a developmentally disabled child was likely to place him or her in a “sanitarium” for life. Today, that person could be living in your neighborhood and working in your favorite fast-food place.

A conference on self-advocacy for this community drew hundreds of developmentally disabled adults to Springfield. The theme was “Speak Up and Speak Out.”

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“One of the things that I’d like to explore is home ownership for people with developmental disabled,” says Bill Bogdan of Mokena, the chairman of the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. “We have …a lot of neighborhoods getting boarded up due to foreclosed homes. There’s no reason why we couldn’t work at expending some resources to provide home ownership for people with developmental disabilities, given the right supports.”

“I hope that this paradigm continues to change, so that all Illinois residents are seen as an Illinois resident, not an Illinois resident with a label of developmental disabilities,” says Sheila Romano, the group’s executive director. “And I hope that we will be seeing people living in the community and being next-door neighbors, not having a group home or an institution down the street from you.”

(Copyright WBGZ Radio/