Developmental Disabilities

Developmental Disabilities (DD)

Developmental disabilities (DD), as defined in federal law, is a severe, chronic, often lifelong disability that causes substantial limitations in several major life activities such as: self care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, the capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. It is attributable to a mental, emotional, sensory, and/or physical impairment that is apparent before the age of twenty-two. People with developmental disabilities often need a combination of special services, support and other assistance that is likely to continue indefinitely. People with developmental disabilities constitute the most severely under-served population in the Commonwealth. Developmental disabilities include: intellectual disabilities, autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, down syndrome and other neurological conditions.


There are many organizations established to assist people with developmental disabilities and their families. As a result of the federal Developmental Disabilities Act, re-authorized in 1990, each state has a planning council, a protection & advocacy organization, and at least one University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs). All are focused on the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. In addition, there are many disability specific organizations providing info, advocacy and, in some cases, direct services to people with developmental disabilities.  United Cerebral Palsy Associations and Head Injury Associations are examples of such organizations.

Other Information:

For additional information about developmental disabilities, contact:

Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network
collaborative of four organizations that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, integration and inclusion in all facets of community life for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The network partners accomplish this mission through advocacy, education, research and dissemination of information. Organizations include Disability Law Center, Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, Institute for Community Inclusion and University of Massachusetts Medical School Shriver Center.

Asssociation of Developmental Disabilities Providers
1671 Worcester Road (Rt. 9W), Suite 201,
Framingham, MA 01701
Phone: 508.405.8000
Fax: 508.405.8001
Contact Form

Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD)
Part of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD). Dedicated to ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are able to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of community life in the United States and its territories.
Administration for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Administration for Community Living
Washington D.C. 20201

First Signs
First Signs, Inc. is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating parents and physicians about the early signs of autism and other developmental disabilities.

Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC)
Information about the state plan, public policy, resources and grants.
100 Hancock Street, 2rd Floor, Suite 201
Quincy, MA 02171
Voice: 617-770-7676
Fax: 617-770-1987

Massachusetts Families
Statewide, grassroots coalition of individuals with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses and their families. Here are links to a variety of resources for families and professionals.
PO Box 421
Salem, MA 01970
Phone: 774-855-6001

National Association of Councils on Development Disabilities (NACDD)
National Association for the 56 State and Territorial Councils on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) which receive federal funding to support programs that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for all Americans with developmental disabilities.
1825 K Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington DC 20006

 Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services
DDS is dedicated to creating, in partnership with others, innovative and genuine opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate fully and meaningfully in, and contribute to, their communities as valued members.
500 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
Voice: 617-727-5608
Fax: 617-624-7577
TTY: 617-624-7783

Fact Sheet last updated on: 9/21/2021