Day Habilitation: What Is It and Is It Right for You?

Day Habilitation Explained

As we move into March, it’s important to recognize it is Developmental Disabilities Month. If you aren’t sure what developmental disability is, we did a quick overview of what it means in another article and we recommend you check that out first. However, if you’re already familiar with the classification, we would like to explore the concept of Day Habilitiation, otherwise known as “Day Programs.” This is a service, funded by the state, and provided by service organizations within the state of New Jersey (although other similar programs may exist around the country). Easterseals itself provides this service. These programs are designed to assist people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in learning valuable life skills, achieving greater personal independence, and experiencing meaningful community integration. Phew! That’s quite a mouthful, so let’s break down what that really means so you can make an informed decision about Day Habilitation for either yourself or a loved one.


If you’re accessing disability services through the state, a term you will hear is “person-centered.” This simply means that the program an individual is enrolled in will operate in a different way for each individual enrolled. The staff member from the program should sit down with all those involved (person-served, family, guardian, etc.) and go over the individual’s like and dislikes, goals, and objectives. This is your chance to lay out what the Day Habilitation experience will be for the person enrolled.

Unsure how order in a restaurant? Need a refresher on what is and is not appropriate public behavior? Want to increase your social skills by meeting new people? These are all activities and lessons a good Day Habilitation program can help you with. No two program participants will have the same experience, because they will both be working on different goals. Staff will provide direct instruction and real-world opportunities to put these skills into practice.


Day Habilitation programs often have brick-and-mortar sites that they work out of, yet it is preferred that the majority of Day Habilitationexperiences should be occurring out in the community and not on-site. Services will often be rendered out in the community, from participating in volunteer opportunities to taking a trip to the local mall. Staff will take groups out to experience nearby  events, encourage participation in activities, and provide any support an individual would need to access said activities.

The world is not as accessible as we would like it to be and sometimes people with disabilities and special needs require assistance to fully enjoy community offerings. Staff can assist with a multitude of tasks – everything from pushing a wheelchair to helping start a conversation with a new friend. These small tasks can go a long way towards increasing community inclusion for the participant. The individual will, over time, learn from these experiences, expanding a participant’s independence.

Not Just for the Participant…

As mentioned previously, the program is meant to directly serve the program participant first and foremost, but there are indirect benefits as well. As participants are exposed to new environments and experiences, so is the public at large. Many people have preconceived notions about people with disabilities and special needs. A lack of exposure to the population has unfortunately led to harmful stereotypes being forced upon those we serve.

Participation in a Day Habilitation program educates those who may not understand the challenges surrounding disability. This can have a viral effect, as friends tell friends about positive experiences they had with the population. As a result, people become more empathetic towards those living with disabilities and special needs. This can help reduce ignorance and increase acceptance and ultimately, inclusion. Often these is a stigma of “pity” that surrounds this population and it can be insulting and hurtful. Participation in these programs can help challenge preconceptions as the public sees people with disabilities inhabit the same community they do.

There are other reasons to attend one of these programs, but these are some of the most important. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on Day Habilitation.


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