What is a Developmental Disability?

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness month! Although I blogged  the definition of developmental disabilities here, I wanted to give you more information besides the Federal regulation. Quite often, people are confused between the definition of an intellectual disability and a developmental disability.

A developmental disability is described as an assortment of chronic conditions that are due to mental or physical impairments or both. For example, you may have a child or an adult with an intellectual disability or perhaps a person diagnosed with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. It is also considered a severe and chronic disability that can occur up to the age of 22, hence the word developmental. A developmental disability can occur before birth such as genetic disorders (i.e. cri du chat, fragile x syndrome,) or chromosomes ( i.e. Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome); during birth (lack of oxygen) or after birth up to the age of 22 (i.e. head injuries, child abuse or accidents).

The disability is likely to occur indefinitely meaning the person will require some type of ongoing service throughout their lives. Finally, the person must show limitations in 3 or more of the following areas of major life activities:

  1. Self-care– brushing teeth, hand-washing and combing hair independently
  2. Receptive and expressive language-ability to understand someone talking and to also be understood
  3. Learning– ability to read and write with understanding
  4. Mobilityability to move around without any assistance
  5. Self-direction– time management, organization
  6. Capacity for independent living– requiring no supervision
  7. Economic self-sufficiency – having a job  and purchasing what one needs

Here are some examples of a developmental disability:

Does everyone with a disability also have a developmental disability?

The answer is no. there are people with disabilities such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy simply have a disability based on the criteria listed above. However, many people with developmental disabilities quite often have a combination of disabilities. For example a child with autism may also have seizures and an intellectual disability or an adult may have cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and epilepsy. In addition there are many people in the spectrum of autism who also have ADHD and so forth.

So what’s the difference between an intellectual disability and a developmental disability?

A person with an intellectual disability falls under the category of a developmental disability meaning you can have an intellectual disability and a developmental disability. check here for the definition of an intellectual disability, you will see they are quite similar. Below is an infographic created by Centers on Disease Control:

An Infographic on Developmental Disabilities.