What is a developmental disability?

“Developmental disability” is a term that includes many types of disabilities that occur in the ‘developmental’ years, prior to the age of 22. Developmental disabilities are life-long and chronic. A person with a developmental disability will have substantial functional limitations in two or more of the following areas: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self- direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

Developmental disabilities include, but are not limited to: cognitive/intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, Down Syndrome, learning disability related to brain dysfunction, or a head/spinal cord injury that occurs prior to the age of 22.

There are many social, environmental, and physical causes of developmental disabilities, although, for some, a definitive cause will never be determined. Common factors causing developmental disabilities include: brain injury or infection before, during, or after birth; growth or nutrition problems; abnormalities of chromosomes and genes; poor diet and health care; drug misuse during pregnancy, including excessive alcohol intake and smoking.

For more information on the different types of developmental disabilities, go to www.moddrc.org.

What is People-First Language?

People with disabilities are – first and foremost – people who have individual abilities, interests and needs. They are moms, dads, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, coworkers, students and teachers. About 54 million Americans — one out of every five individuals — have a disability. Their contributions enrich our community as they live, work and share their lives.

People with disabilities constitute our nation’s largest minority group, which is simultaneously the most inclusive and the most diverse. Everyone is represented: of all genders, all ages, all religions, all socioeconomic levels and all ethnic backgrounds. The disability community is the only minority group that anyone can join at any time.

The language a society uses to refer to persons with disabilities shapes its beliefs and ideas about them. Words are powerful! Old, inaccurate and inappropriate descriptors perpetuate negative stereotypes and attitudinal barriers. When we describe people by their labels of medical diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as individuals. In contrast, using thoughtful terminology can foster positive attitudes about persons with disabilities.

One of the major improvements in communicating with and about people with disabilities is “People-First Language.” People-First Language emphasizes the person, not the disability. By placing the person first, the disability is no longer the primary, defining characteristic of an individual, but one of several aspects of the whole person. People-First Language is an objective way of acknowledging, communicating, and reporting on disabilities. It eliminates generalizations and stereotypes, by focusing on the person rather than the disability.

Disability is not the “problem.” For example, a person who wears glasses doesn’t say, “I have a problem seeing,” they say, “I wear/need glasses.” Similarly, a person who uses a wheelchair doesn’t say, “I have a problem walking,” they say, “I use/need a wheelchair.”

~ Shared from St. Louis Arc website

Examples of People-First Language

Do Say: Instead of:
Children/adults with disabilities Handicapped, disabled
She uses a wheelchair She’s a wheelchair person/confined to a wheelchair
He has autism He’s autistic
She has a brain injury She’s brain damaged
He has a physical disability He’s crippled
She has a cognitive/intellectual disability She is mentally retarded
Accessible parking Handicapped parking


What is an Individualized Support Plan?

An Individualized Support Plan (also called Person-Centered Plan) takes place within 30 days from the date of acceptance into the program. The individual and a planning team will develop the plan together. The Individualized Support Plan is based on functional assessment, all other assessments that are pertinent, and the observations and information gathered including the members of the planning team.

The planning team includes the individual and their representatives, family or guardian. The individual chooses whom he or she wants to attend as a member of the team. The team also includes a support coordinator and providers selected by the individual.

The functional assessment includes but may not be limited to identifying the following:

  • How the individual wants to live;
  • The individual’s functional skills and abilities;
  • The individual’s routines;
  • What works for the individual and what does not;
  • What the individual wants to learn and how the individual learns best;
  • What may interfere with what the individual wants;
  • Suggests ways the individual’s needs and wants can be met.

The Individualized Support Plan describes how the individual chooses to live their life and how they want to learn. It must reflect the full range of an individual’s service needs and include both the waiver and non-waiver services and supports needed to address those needs, and who is to provide them.

The Individualized Support Plan is revised as necessary. Individualized Support Plan changes may be necessary due to a change in the individual’s needs.