Developmental Disabilities Basics

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A developmental disability is defined as a physical, cognitive or intellectual impairment occurring before adulthood, that is expected to continue throughout the lifespan and is likely to create barriers to the ability of the individual to function independently.

Developmental disability diagnoses include Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disability, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and other neurological disorders.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live independent, productive lives in their community with support from family, friends and agencies like The Arc.

The Oregon Developmental Disabilities system is administered through Community Developmental Disabilities Programs (CDDP). A wide range of services are offered, ranging from supports to assist a person living in their own home, with family, or in 24-hour residential services. Support services for people who live in their own or in their family’s home are provided through Support Services Brokerages.

To learn more about what services are available and how to get started, visit the State of Oregon website and/or download the DD Services Brochure.

Once a person is found eligible for services, an Individual Support Plan is developed to identify what supports are needed to assure the person’s health and safety, and to support the person’s personal goals.

Elibility for services in Oregon is based on the following:

  • Person has an intellectual or developmental disability that will last indefinitely; and
  • The disability causes impairments in adaptive behaviors, such as everyday living skills like walking and communicating; and
  • The impairments are not caused by mental disorder, sensory impairment, personality disorder, substance abuse, learning disability, or ADHD.

There are two paths to eligibility – Intellectual Disability (ID) or Developmental Disability (DD)

  1. Intellectual Disability eligibility is based on IQ an must be identified by the person’s 18th birthday
  2. Development Disability eligibility is based on a person’s medical/clinical diagnosis that starts in and affects brain functions and adaptive behaviors, and is diagnosed by the person’s 22nd birthday.

Additional information about eligibility can be found on the ODDS website.

To apply for IDD services in Oregon, contact your local Community Developmental Disabilities Program (CDDP) to start the application process.

There are many private organizations that offer amazing supports, programs and services for children and adults with IDD, and their families.

To find statewide and local opportunities, visit our Website Links page. If you are looking for something you don’t see on our page, please feel free to contact our office and we will try to help you find what you need.

Self-advocacy is something we all do when we want to stand up for our rights, wants, needs, etc. A DD self-advocate is a person who learns how to speak out on behalf of themselves and others to improve their quality of life, fight to correct inequities, or effect positive change.

Self-advocates are vital participants in the ongoing quest to improve supports, services, and systems for people with IDD. Their voices make a significant difference in how the public, and especially lawmakers, view people who experience IDD and other disabilities.

The Arc Oregon, through its Oregon Training and Consultation (OTAC) program and GAPS Advocacy Services, offers training for people with IDD who want to learn how to advocate for themselves and others. There are also several self-advocacy groups throughout Oregon where people can get training and support from their peers.

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. People-First language is a way of acknowledging, communicating and reporting on disabilities that reaffirms the humanity and personhood of people with disabilities and promotes respect of the person.

While guidelines for People-First Language can help change the way society views and talks about people with disabilities, we always take our cues from the individual. Some people prefer identity-first language (Ex: autistic person). If a person prefers others use a certain word or phrase to describe them or their disability, their personal preferences should always be respected.

Using Identity-First puts the disability first in a phrase, such as “a disabled person” as opposed to the Person-First phrase of “a person with a disability.” For many years Person-First language has been considered the correct approach; however, recently there has been a movement toward Identity-First language.

Among people who experience autism, for example, many people feel their autism is a strong part of who they are rather than autism being something that has happened to them.

Communication Tips

This tool from The Arc US provides suggested techniques to use when communicating with people who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities.​

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