Any person suspected of having a developmental disability (intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism or other conditions requiring similar treatments) is eligible to receive free diagnosis and assessment services. In order to be eligible for ongoing services, the person must be found to have a developmental disability which occurred prior to the age of 18 and which constitutes a substantial handicap.
Early intervention services can be provided to infants between birth and three years of age who are believed to be at high risk of having a developmental delay. Pre-natal diagnosis and other genetic counseling services can be provided to pregnant women who are believed to be at risk of giving birth to a child with a developmental disability.
Intellectual disability is a condition manifested during childhood (birth through age 17) that significantly impairs an individual’s intellectual, social and day-to-day living skills. There are four degrees of intellectual disability. Individuals with mild intellectual disability, the most prevalent form of intellectual disability, have trouble learning social and academic skills, but most possess the potential for independent work, leisure and residential living as adults. People with moderate intellectual disability are generally able to learn to care for themselves with special training and, as adults, can often live semi-independently and work with supervision. Individuals who have severe and profound intellectual disability exhibit the most noticeable delays in speech and coordination and frequently have physical handicaps in addition to intellectual disability. Some need constant care but others can learn to perform useful tasks and many, as adults, can work with supervision.
Cerebral Palsy is not a single disorder but a term describing a group of conditions characterized by difficulty in muscular control and coordination. Sometimes cerebral palsy shows itself only by a slight awkwardness of gait, more often there has been a severe loss of muscular control in several areas of the body. Some people with cerebral palsy can do only simple tasks related to work and self-care. Others have attained professional careers and lead independent lives. Although some people with cerebral palsy also have mental retardation, most have average intelligence.
The term “epilepsy” applies to a number of disorders of the nervous system centered in the brain. It is characterized by sudden seizures – muscle convulsions and partial or total loss of consciousness, mental confusion or disturbances of bodily functions such as spots before the eyes, ringing in the ears or dizziness. The frequency of occurrence of epileptic symptoms varies widely.
Autism is a disorder of social interaction, communication and behavior. Autism typically manifests itself within the first three years of life and there is usually cognitive impairment as well. A child diagnosed with autism may have some or all of the following characteristics: often prefers to play alone, fails to initiate and develop friendships, spoken language is delayed or not present at all, communication is limited to obtaining needs rather than for sharing and enjoyment, resistive to eye-to-eye and other nonverbal gestures, expressions of affect are often flat or constricted, lacks imaginative play, attaches inappropriately to objects, engages in prolonged odd body movements, fascinated by spinning objects. While resistiveness to learning is almost always present, with treatment, individuals with autism can make very significant gains in social relatedness, communication and behavior adjustment.
Some consumers have disabling conditions that are closely related to mental retardation or which require treatment similar to that required by people with mental retardation. The disabling condition must have occurred before the age of 18.
Some consumers have more than one developmental disability, for example, epilepsy and mental retardation. Or people may have conditions such as heart defects, allergies, mental health problems, etc., in addition to a developmental disability. Sometimes people may have multiple disabilities – mental retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy along with chronic or acute medical conditions.