Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act) is the fundamental law supporting and enhancing the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families. The goal of the act is to “assure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in the design of and have access to needed community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life. The DD Act authorizes three programs that operate in each state and territory, University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Developmental Disability Councils, and Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities together known as the Developmental Disabilities Network.

 - From the Association of University Centers on Disability

The Wyoming Institute for Disabilities is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), and serves as a liason between academia and the community. UCEDDs are a nationwide network of independent but interlinked centers, representing an expansive national resource for addressing issues, finding solutions, and advancing research related to the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

What are intellectual and developmental disabilities?

Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 22.

Intellectual Functioning: Intellectual functioning—also called intelligence—refers to general mental capacity, such as learning, reasoning, problem solving, and so on.

One way to measure intellectual functioning is an IQ test. Generally, an IQ test score of around 70 or as high as 75 indicates a limitation in intellectual functioning.

Adaptive Behavior: Adaptive behavior is the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that are learned and performed by people in their everyday lives. 

  • Conceptual skills—language and literacy; money, time, and number concepts; and self-direction.

  • Social skills—interpersonal skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, gullibility, naïveté (i.e., wariness), social problem solving, and the ability to follow rules/obey laws and to avoid being victimized.

  • Practical skills—activities of daily living (personal care), occupational skills, healthcare, travel/transportation, schedules/routines, safety, use of money, use of the telephone.

Standardized tests can also determine limitations in adaptive behavior.

Age of Onset : This condition is one of several developmental disabilities—that is, there is evidence of the disability during the developmental period, which is defined as before the age of 22.

- From the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)



smiling girl with disabilities drawing a picture

Intellectual Disability in Children

Intellectual disability can be caused by a problem that starts any time before a child turns 18 years old – even before birth. It can be caused by injury, disease, or a problem in the brain. For many children, the cause of their intellectual disability is not known. Some of the most common known causes of intellectual disability – like Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, genetic conditions, birth defects, and infections – happen before birth. Others happen while a baby is being born or soon after birth. Still other causes of intellectual disability do not occur until a child is older; these might include serious head injury, stroke, or certain infections.

What are some of the signs of intellectual disability?

Usually, the more severe the degree of intellectual disability, the earlier the signs can be noticed. However, it might still be hard to tell how young children will be affected later in life.

There are many signs of intellectual disability. For example, children with intellectual disability may:

  • sit up, crawl, or walk later than other children

  • learn to talk later, or have trouble speaking

  • find it hard to remember things

  • have trouble understanding social rules

  • have trouble seeing the results of their actions

  • have trouble solving problems

What can I do if I think my child may have intellectual disability?

Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. If you or your doctor think there could be a problem, you can take your child to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist, and you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older). Wyoming residents can visit for more resources from the Wyoming Department of Health.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Please visit their website for additional information.


  • Why is it Important to Understand Intellectual Disabilities?

    The overarching reason for evaluating and classifying intellectual and developmental disabilities is to be able to tailor a personalized set of supports for each person in the form of strategies and services that are to be delivered over a sustained period of time.

    The overarching goal of these supports is to enhance the functioning of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities within their own environment in order to lead a more successful and satisfying life.

    - From American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

  • What is the current thought on supporting people with intellectual disabilities?

    Current approaches to services and supports emphasize promoting full community inclusion, enhancing self-direction, and decreasing disparities in health care outcomes.

    Services and supports are expected to respect the desires and interests of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and to support the high quality of life standards desired by all members of society.

    - From American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

  • What are Systems of Support?

    Systems of supports are an interconnected network of resources and strategies that promote the development and interests of a person and enhance an individual’s functioning and personal well-being. Systems of supports: (a) are characterized by being person-centered, comprehensive, coordinated, and outcome oriented; and (b) encompass choice and personal autonomy, inclusive environments, generic supports, and specialized supports.

    - From American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Wyoming Institute for Disabilities

Dept. 4298; 1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2761

Toll Free: (888) 989-9463

TeleType: (800) 908-7011

Fax: (307) 766-2763