Frequently Asked Questions About Developmental Disabilities and Special Needs

We understand that caring for a family member with developmental disabilities or special needs can at times feel overwhelming. Below, find answers to our most common special needs questions.

What Is A Developmental Disability?
According to the Developmental Disabilities Act (Pub.L.106-402), the term developmental disability means a severe, chronic disability that:

  • is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments;
  • occurs before the individual reaches age 22;
  • is likely to continue indefinitely;
  • results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: (i) self care, (ii) receptive and expressive language, (iii) learning, (iv) mobility, (v) self-direction, (vi) capacity for independent living, and (vii) economic self-sufficiency; and
  • reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated.

The term “developmental disability” can include several types of conditions including, but not limited to: autism, Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. Many states use different definitions for developmental disabilities based on the federal law.

What Are Intellectual Disabilities?
Intellectual disabilities are generally thought to be present if an individual has an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test score of approximately 70 or below (AAMR, 2002). Intelligence refers to a general mental capability. It involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience. IQ scores are determined from standardized tests given by trained professionals.

What Is The Difference Between Intellectual Disability and Mental Illness?
Intellectual disability is not mental illness. Intellectual disability refers to a person’s capability to think and reason. Mental illness is an emotional disturbance. There may be one occurrence or several which can develop at any time in a person’s life. Like anyone else, a person with intellectual disabilities may become emotionally disturbed or mentally ill, but they are separate conditions.

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Foundation For Special People
10024 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90047

Office: (323) 777-7133
Fax: (323) 777-7135