Developmental Disabilities

The term "developmental disabilities" is used to describe life-long disabilities attributed to mental and/or physical impairments that are manifested before prior to 22 years of age.

People with developmental disabilities often have functional limitations in the areas of language, mobility, learning, performing self-help tasks and independent living.

As adults they may need life long support for economic self-sufficiency and engagement in meaningful functional activities such as supported employment or participation in an exercise, social or  crafts group.

The term "mental retardation" is considered to have negative connotations and the term "developmental disability" is often preferred when referring to  an individual with impaired cognitive or intellectual abilities.

Usually people with  intellectual impairment, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and various genetic and chromosomal disorders such as Trisomy 21 or
Fragile X are described as having developmental disabilities.

A diagnosis is assessed through levels of intelligent and adaptive behavior.
An average IQ test score is 100. Individuals with scores below 100 may be mentally disabled.

Autism is considered a developmental disability. However, some individuals have high functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome with normal or above average intelligence.

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Books Mainly for Therapists and Educators           
  • Bruni, Maryanne, Fine Motor Skills in Children with Down
    Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and professionals, Woodbine
    House, Bethesda MD,  2nd addition 2006.           

    This extremely detailed guide to normal development
    and adaptations for children with special needs written

    with special needs written by an occupational therapist
    would be helpful for any parent. I especially liked the step
    by step instructions for teaching ball play, coloring and
    cutting skills.
    Fine Motor skills in Children with Down Syndrome
  • Erhardt, Rhoda, Developmental Hand Dysfunction: Theory,
  • Assessment and Treatment, 2nd Edition, Pro-Ed, Inc. TX, 1994.
    Erhardt, Rhoda, Developmental Visual Dysfunction, Erhardt
    Developmental Products,  2379 Snowshoe Court, Maplewood,
    MN, 55119, 1990.

    These are great resources to learn normal hand and vision
    development, the impact of dysfunction due to developmental
    disabilities, assessment tools and models for treatment.
    Many videotapes are also available at the author's website.

  • Gray, Carol, My Social Stories Book, Jessica Kingsley Publisher,
  • London UK, 2002
    Although Carol Gray's stories about basic activities such as
    brushing your teeth or wearing a safety belt in the car are
    geared for young children with autism, they are useful for
    other individuals with developmental disabilities who can
    learn basic skills  by listening to the stories.
    My Social Stories Book

  • Harrison,  Linda, Daily Living Skills Worksheets


    dailylivingskillsRead my book review of this great resource- written
    to help therapists, educators, support staff, family
    members and clients promote independence and
    quality of life through successful daily living skills.

  • Richard, Gail, J. and Hoge, Debra, The Source for Syndromes, 
  • LinguiSystems, East Moline, Ill, 1999.
    The authors provide the characteristics and intervention issues
    for numerous syndromes: Angelman, Asperger's, Autism, Down,
    Fetal Alcohol, Fetal Rubella, Fragile X, Landau-Kleffner, Prader-Willi,
    Rett's, Selective Mutism, Tourette's and William's syndromes.

  • Ross, Mildred, Bachner, Susan, Adults with Developmental Disabilities:
    Current Approaches in Occupational Therapy, The American Occupational
  • Therapy Association, Bethesda, MD, 1998.
    A comprehensive guide to working with this population in a variety of
    settings, addressing sensory, vocational, vision, activities of daily living
    and social needs and treatment models.
    Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Oral-Motor and Feeding Issues

What is a Feeding Disorder?

Ernsperger, Lori, Stegen-Hanson, Tania, Just Take a Bite,
Future Horizons, Inc., Arlington, TX, 2004.
A behavioral consultant and occupational therapist team up
to explore oral motor development and the behavioral,
sensory and motor issues that contribute to fussy eater
Just Take a Bite

Morris, Suzanne, Pre-Feeding Skills , Therapy Skill Builders, TX,  2000.
A speech therapist reviews anatomy, normal development, oral structure
problems, sensory processing issues, assessment, feeding approaches,
treatment, nutritional and issues around feeding children who are fed by
Pre-Feeding Skills

Oetter, P., Richter, E., Frick, S. M.O.R.E. Integrating the Mouth with
Sensory and Postural Functions, PDP Press, MN.
These occupational therapists illustrate the relationship between oral
motor mechanisms and the sensorimotor and behavioral aspects
of human function. They include extensive information on the various
oral-motor toys, advantages and therapeutic use.

Books Mainly for Parents and Caregivers

  • Feit, Debbie, The Parent's Guide to Speech and Language Problems,
  • McGraw hill, New York, 2007.
    This guide written by a parent with two children with speech
    disorders, explains the different types of disorders, how to find
    the right help, the basics of how therapy works and more.
    The Parents Guide To Speech and Language Problems
  • Lewis, Pamela, Achieving Best Behavior for Children with
  • Developmental Disabilities, Jessica Kingsley Publishers,
    London, 2006.

    This book offers practical, hands-on advice, instruction
    to encourage positive behavior in children with developmental
    Achieving Best Behavior for Children with Developmental Disabilities

  • Potock, Melanie, Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids:
  • How to Teach Your child About the Joy of food!
    Written by a speech therapist, this is a great resoruce for
    parents of children with feeding challenges.

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Disability Organizations Websites

  • The American Association on Intellectual and 
    Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)
    AAIDD promotes research,
    effective practices and universal
    human rights for people with
    intellectual and developmental

  • The Angelman Syndrome Foundation, Inc., is a national organization
    for family, caregivers and professionals. Angelman syndrome (AS)
    has confused the medical community and parents of Angelman
    children for hundreds of years. Initially presumed to be rare, it is
    now believed that thousands of Angelman Syndrome cases have
    gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy, autism or other
    childhood disorders.

  • The ARC advocates for the rights and full participation of all children
    and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

  • The Developmental Delay Resources (Dr) publicizes research
    maintains a registry to identify factors that would put a child
    at risk,
    provides a network for parents and professionals and
    reviews books
    and other publications.

  • Fragile X is the most common inherited cause of mental impairment.
    The Fragile X
    Research Foundation's mission is to find effective
    treatments and a cure.

  • The National Down Syndrome Society provides educational materials,
    referrals, training for health care professionals,
    a newsletter,
    and works toward expanding
    educational opportunities.

    The International Rett Rett Syndrome Foundation provides the history,
  • diagnosis criteria, causes, symptoms and medical information.
    News, events and an on-line community are also available.

  • United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) provides information on cerebral
    and advocacy for the rights of persons with any disability.
  • A resource for parents and professionals with articles, products,
    videos, trainings and advocacy to promote support for very young

Publishing Houses that Specialize in Disability
Related Books

  • Autism Asperger Publishing Company
  • P.O. Box 23173 Shawnee Mission, KS 66283-0173
    Tel.: (877) 8254
    Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
    Autism Asperger Publishing Company is an independent publisher
    specializing in books on autism spectrum disorders. The books are
    targeted to parents, teachers and or others working or living with an
    individual with an autism spectrum disorder. The company also
    offers videos and other interactive products.
  • Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.
  • This independent publisher specializes in the categories of: arts
    Autism and Asperger's Syndromes, brain injury, disability
    law, education,
    health and social care (including occupational therapy),
    psychology and psychiatry. There are numerous titles
    related to
    developmental disabilities.

  • Woodbinehouse
  • 6510 Bells Mill Road
    Bethesda, MD 20817
    Tel.: (800) 843-7323
    Woodbine House is a publisher specializing in books about c children
    with special needs. Titles in the special needs collection include topics:
    AD/HD, autism, celiac disease, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, spina
    bifida, traumatic brain injury, early intervention, inclusion, special
    education, communication skills. 

    Visit the Autism Resource page for more information.
©2008 Barbara Smith  

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