What are Developmental Disabilities?

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The term Developmental Disabilities (DD) describes a variety of conditions that impact the way people learn and acquire new skills. These conditions are either present at birth or develop before a person is 22 years old. About one in six children in the United States have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays.

Most Common Types of Developmental Disabilities

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that an average of 1 in 323 children in the U.S. have CP.

Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are small “packages” of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms during pregnancy and how the baby’s body functions as it grows in the womb and after birth. Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the person.

Epilepsy is a general term for conditions with recurring seizures. There are many kinds of seizures, but all involve abnormal electrical activity in the brain that causes an involuntary change in body movement or function, sensation, awareness, or behavior.

Intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation, is a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life. Levels of intellectual disability vary greatly in children – from a very slight problem to a very severe problem. Children with intellectual disability might have a hard time letting others know their wants and needs, and taking care of themselves. Intellectual disability could cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than other children of the same age. It could take longer for a child with intellectual disability to learn to speak, walk, dress, or eat without help, and they could have trouble learning in school.

Spina bifida is a condition that affects the spine and is usually apparent at birth. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD).  Spina bifida can happen anywhere along the spine if the neural tube does not close all the way. When the neural tube doesn’t close all the way, the backbone that protects the spinal cord doesn’t form and close as it should. This often results in damage to the spinal cord and nerves.
Spina bifida might cause physical and intellectual disabilities that range from mild to severe. The severity depends on:

  • The size and location of the opening in the spine.
  • Whether part of the spinal cord and nerves are affected.

Resource: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/developmentaldisabilities/index.html