Adults with developmental disabilities don’t have it easy. But far too often in our society, this leads to people writing them off as helpless. Thankfully, a Los Angeles-area non-profit corporation is devoting themselves to helping developmentally disabled adults live their lives outside of the bubble to which they’re so often relegated. The organization is called Breaking Barriers. And as we found out in our latest Community Spotlight, they’re passionate about helping their participants help themselves.

Long before she was the co-founder and Associate Director of Breaking Barriers, Melissa Spicuzza was helping adults with developmental disabilities the only way she knew how. The trouble was that it left her uninspired. Even worse, it left those she supported discouraged.

In immediate need of employment, Spicuzza began her work with developmentally disabled adults after high school. A friend who recognized her gift for supporting others suggested she apply for a job allowing her to work with developmentally disabled adults in a casual residential setting. At first, Spicuzza was convinced that she was truly helping these individuals.

But with time, she began to feel burdened by constantly dissuading these individuals from pursuing their passions. She cites a medical model in which people with developmental disabilities need to be “fixed.” Under this model, the priority is to keep a developmentally disabled adult sheltered from the outside world. In essence, her job was to insulate them from potential failure or even danger.

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