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Office of the Ombudsman for Individuals
with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families

What are Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities?


Developmental Disabilities:

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Division of Developmental Disabilities defines developmental disability:

Developmental disability means a severe, chronic disability of an individual, which:

  1. Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental or physical impairments
  2. Manifests before age 22
  3. Is likely to continue indefinitely
  4. Results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major activities of daily living:
    1. Self-care
    2. Receptive and expressive language
    3. Learning
    4. Mobility
    5. Self-direction
    6. Capacity for independent living
    7. Economic self-sufficiency
  5. Reflects the need for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment, or other services, which are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated

Intellectual Disabilities:

US Department of Health and Human Services defines intellectual disability:

Intellectual disability starts any time before a child turns 18 and is characterized by differences with both:

  • Intellectual functioning or intelligence, which includes the ability to learn, reason, and problem solve.
  • Adaptive behavior, which includes everyday social and life skills

Examples of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities:

  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Down Syndrome
  • Fragile X Syndrome
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome
  • Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injury *
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Apert Syndrome
  • Williams Syndrome
  • Phenylketonuria

* Manifests before age 22

Conditions that do not independently meet the criteria of developmental disability include, but are not limited to:

  • Education classification of a neurological impairment
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Learning Disability
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Mental Health Diagnosis


New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities

Last Updated: Thursday, 11/02/23
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