Information About Developmental Disabilities
The term developmental disability refers to a severe and chronic disability that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment that begins before an individual reaches adulthood. These disabilities include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and disabling conditions closely related to intellectual disability or requiring similar treatment.
Intellectual Disability is characterized by significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning (i.e., an IQ of approximately 70 or below) with concurrent deficits or impairments in adaptive functioning.
Cerebral Palsy includes two types of motor dysfunction: (1) nonprogressive lesion or disorder in the brain occurring during intrauterine life or the perinatal period and characterized by paralysis, spasticity, or abnormal control of movement or posture, such as poor coordination or lack of balance, which is manifest prior to two or three years of age, and (2) other significant motor dysfunction appearing prior to age 18.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with multiple causes or origins. It is defined as a syndrome causing gross and sustained impairment in social interaction and communication with restricted and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities that appear prior to the age of three. Specific symptoms may include impaired awareness of others, lack of social or emotional reciprocity, failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level, delay or absence of spoken language and abnormal nonverbal communication, stereotyped and repetitive language, idiosyncratic language, impaired imaginative play, insistence on sameness (e.g., nonfunctional routines or rituals), and stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms.
Epilepsy is defined as recurrent, unprovoked seizures.
Other Developmental Disabilities
Other Developmental Disabilities are those handicapping conditions similar to that require treatment (i.e., care and management) similar to that required by individuals with intellectual disability. This does not include handicapping conditions that are solely psychiatric or physical in nature. The handicapping conditions must occur before age 18, result in a substantial handicap, be likely to continue indefinitely, and involve brain damage or dysfunction. Examples of conditions might include intracranial neoplasms, degenerative brain disease or brain damage associated with accidents.
For an individual to be assessed in California as having a developmental disability, the disability must begin before the individual's 18th birthday, be expected to continue indefinitely and present a substantial disability. For further information, see Who Is Eligible For Services or contact your local regional center.