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Developmental Disabilities

The term "developmental disabilities" includes all mental and physical impairments or combination of mental and physical impairments that (1) occur before a person is twenty-two years old; (2) are expected to continue indefinitely; (3) result in limitations in one or more areas of development such as physical, cognitive, behavioral, emotional, or social development; and (4) reflect a child's need for individualized services or treatment in school or community-based settings. Developmental disabilities is a generic term that includes medical or diagnosed conditions such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy that have a known biological, genetic, or neurological cause. In addition, children with developmental disabilities may be delayed in attaining developmental milestones such as walking and talking for reasons that are unknown or thought to be related to environmental conditions such as poverty. Examples of common broad categories of developmental disabilities include mental retardation, autism, and learning disabilities.


Batshaw, Mark, and Yvonne Perret. Children with Disabilities: A Medical Primer, 3rd edition. Baltimore: Brookes, 1992.

Gallimore, Ronald, Lucinda Bernheimer, Donald MacMillan, Deborah Speece, and Sharon Vaughn, eds. Developmental Perspectives on Children with High-incidence Disabilities. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1999.

Levine, Melvin, William Carey, and Allen Crocker, eds. Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1999.

Thurman, S. Kenneth, and Anne Widerstrom. Infants and Young Children with Special Needs: A Developmental and Ecological Approach, 2nd edition. Baltimore: Brookes, 1990.

Marjorie Erickson Warfield

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 3