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Developmental Disability

Q: A Developmental Disability: What is it?

A:

Developmental disabilities include intellectual disability, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, and conditions that require treatment similar to that provided to persons with intellectual disability if the onset was prior to age 18 and is substantially handicapping.

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Q: What is Autism?

A:

Autism usually appears during the first three years of life. It is characterized by impairment in three areas: social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and range of activities and interests.

Difficulty with social interaction may be shown, for example, by failure to cuddle, indifference or resistance to affection or physical contact, and/or lack of eye contact. Sometimes parents mistakenly suspect that the infant or young child is deaf.

Impairment in communication may include absent or delayed language, echolaic language in which the person is only able to repeat what is said to him or her, little or delayed use of gestures or facial expressions to communicate, and/or unusual speech inflection such as a monotone.

In the younger child, a restricted range of interests and activities may show itself in an attachment to just a few objects such as a string or rubber band. The child may have repetitive bodily actions such as incessant hand movements, rocking back and forth, or repeated words. There may be strong reactions to small changes in the environment. The older child may insist on following routines in a precise way and have a low tolerance for frustration.

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Q: What is Cerebral Palsy?

A:

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of posture and movement due to a dysfunction of the brain. In some instances, the cause of cerebral palsy can be identified, such as central nervous system infection or bleeding, head injury, certain birth defects, or insufficient delivery of oxygen to the brain of the fetus or newborn. In many instances, however, the cause is not known.

Cerebral palsy can be characterized by stiff and difficult movement, involuntary movement and balance problems, poor body tone, or a combination of these. It can affect all four extremities (quadriplegia), the lower extremities on one side only (hemiplegia), or the lower extremities only (paraplegia). Speech problems may also be present.

Find out more about other disabilities:

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Q: What is Epilepsy?

A:

Epilepsy is caused by a sudden, brief change in the brain’s electrical activity. When brain cells are not working properly, actions, movement, or consciousness may be altered for a short time. In medical terms, these physical changes are called epilepsy, or recurrent seizures.

Some people can experience a seizure and not have epilepsy. For example, children may have convulsions from high fevers; this type of seizure is called a febrile convulsion. Other types of seizures not classified as epilepsy include those caused by an imbalance of body fluids or chemicals, or by alcohol or drug withdrawal. Seizures of this nature can, in certain instances, develop into epilepsy if they continue to recur in the absence of the initial cause.

Seizures can be generalized, meaning that all brain cells are involved. One type of generalized seizure consists of a convulsion with a complete loss of consciousness. Partial seizures occur when a smaller portion of the brain is affected.

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Q: What is a High-Risk Infant?

A:

We also provide services to children up to three years of age who are at high risk of a developmental disability. These services can often help prevent or lessen the effects of a long-term disability.

A baby or young child may be considered at high risk if one or more of the following is present:

  • Delay in one or more developmental areas.
  • Medical issues or complications such as severe breathing problems, central nervous system infection or bleeding, low birth weight, prematurity, birth defects, failure to thrive, and exposure to toxic chemicals or drugs during pregnancy.
  • Parent(s) with a developmental disability

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Q: What is an Intellectual Disability?

A:

Intellectual Disability was formerly referred to as Mental Retardation. The term mental retardation is no longer used. Individuals with intellectual disability develop at a slower rate than their peers and experience some unique challenges in the areas of learning, social adjustment, and independent living skills. Individuals with intellectual disability require the same basic services that all people need for normal development. These services include education, vocational preparation, health services, recreation, and emotional support. Like all individuals, people with intellectual disabilities require a supportive family and/or social network for optimal development.

Intellectual disability includes a very wide range of abilities. Some individuals can develop the vocational and social skills necessary for their own support, while others may remain fully dependent upon others to satisfy their daily needs.

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