July 23, 2013

As a parent of a young adult with autism, I applaud The Post for “Jenny’s declaration of independence” [front page, July 21]. People who have developmental disabilities are often denied their inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, a tenet of freedom that belongs to all Americans.

Jenny Hatch, a young woman with Down syndrome, was living a life of her choosing. She had established her place in the community, was valued for her contributions and had a loving home life. How sad to learn that Jenny was taken away from all this by a judge and her distant parents, who admitted they didn’t want to have Jenny living with them.

People with developmental disabilities can and do contribute to our society and should enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. Sure, Jenny needs support. Who doesn’t? Jenny and others with developmental disabilities can direct their lives and pursue happiness with the help of people who care about them and are involved in their daily lives.

As my son grows older, I hope he has people in his life who care about his well-being and step up to defend his basic rights after his father and I are gone.

People with developmental disabilities want the same quality of life as the rest of us. It’s time to give them the right to choose and direct their lives.

Cathy Dirksen, Silver Spring

The writer is director of communications and development for Seeking Equality, Empowerment and Community for People with Developmental Disabilities.