March Is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month – and Supported Decision Making Is Taking Off in Maryland

By: Stephen R. Elville, J.D., LL.M. – Managing Principal and Lead Attorney – Elville and Associates, P.C.

Do you know someone with developmental disabilities? If not, you probably know someone who does. And even if that’s not the case during this Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, you most likely will somewhere along your life’s path. Why do I ask? Because whether you already know someone with disabilities or not, it is important to remember that they have rights just like you and me, and have always had such rights, it’s just that those rights and the ability to exercise capacity and self-determine were not always recognized legally (and clearly). By way of the new Supported Decision Making law, Maryland now recognizes the rights of individuals with disabilities to direct their own lives and exercise capacity and self-determination. This includes persons young or old with disabilities. For an in-depth discussion of this issue please see my article from June 2022 by visiting here.  

But in summary, what is Supported Decision Making in Maryland? In my view, Supported Decision Making (SDM) is the ability of a person with disabilities to make their own decisions to whatever extent possible, provided that they have the support to do so (mainly with the support of their supporting decision maker). As you become familiar with this new Maryland law, notice that the person with disabilities is the person who retains their right to make their own decisions and does not yield this right to anyone else. Again, we might say “I can make my own decisions to whatever extent possible, providing that I have the support to do so.” SDM challenges (and changes) old notions and paradigms of incapacity and capacity. Further, as you gain an understanding of Supported Decision Making in Maryland you may ask “Where does the new SDM law begin and where does it end?” – the law is so broad in scope. Well, it’s no secret that some persons with disabilities will understand their new rights of self-determination, while others will not. It is also true that parents and other loved ones of a person with disabilities may embrace the possibilities of Supported Decision Making, while others will not, or remain skeptical. 

But regardless of our current understanding of Supported Decision Making in Maryland and its application, what’s important to remember during this Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is that like a new jet airliner flying to its destination, this new Supported Decision Making law has just lifted off the runway and is climbing to altitude for its long-term journey. Our job is to learn what Supported Decision Making in Maryland really is, including its broad application, and to go along for the ride as persons with disabilities (and those with intellectual disabilities) are now recognized and empowered like never before under the law.

Elville and Associates’ Managing Principal and Lead Attorney Stephen Elville’s work is centered in special needs planning, elder law, and estate planning with special emphasis in the areas of tax planning and asset protection. As a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, he works to bring peace of mind to clients by creating solutions to their needs through counseling and education using the very best legal-technical knowledge available. He is a seasoned speaker and each year presents at dozens of webinars, workshops, conferences, and continuing education events. Steve has also been named to the Maryland Super Lawyers list eight times, including the past seven consecutive years.  Steve is also the founder 

and president of the firm’s charitable organization, the Elville Center for the Creative Arts, in 2014, a 501(c)(3) organization that partners with school music programs and other organizations such as the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra to give the gift of music to children who want to participate in music but don’t have the means to do so on their own.  Steve may be reached at, or by phone at 443-343-8708 x108.

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