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Developmental Disabilities

Causes Of Developmental Disabilities, How Do Different Countries Treat People With Developmental Disabilities?, Impact On The Marital Relationship And The Family

The term developmental disabilities was introduced in the United States in the late 1960s as a term to refer to the disabilities of mental retardation, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. Parent leaders Elizabeth Boggs and Ilse Helsel advocated for the term in an effort to unify the political efforts of what was then the National Association of Retarded Children and United Cerebral Palsy Association (Pelka 1997). It is a term specific to the United States and, within the United States, specific to legislation meant to focus on individuals whose disability was manifested before age twenty-one. However, although the term does not appear in legislation that mandates any specific services, such as education or health care, it has had the effect that Boggs and Helse intended of unifying groups that were created for specific conditions in the common cause of pursuing rights and opportunities for individuals whose disability occurred in childhood. In 1970, the Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendment was passed, thus codifying a legislative definition of developmental disabilities. In 1990, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act incorporated the following definition of developmental disability: "a severe, chronic disability of a person 5 years of age or older" that is "attributable to a mental or physical impairment or a combination of mental or physical impairments" and is "evident before the person attains age 22." A developmental disability is "likely to continue indefinitely" and "results in substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities including self care, language, learning, mobility, self direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self sufficiency." The use of the term developmental disabilities and the legislative entitlement to education and social security supports and the mandate for accessible physical environments is unique to the United States. Other Western countries have progressive service models but do not have the universal guarantees found in the United States.

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