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Students with Developmental Disabilities

Students in a circle.Developmental disabilities are severe and chronic cognitive and/or physical disabilities observed before an individual reaches age 22. Developmental disabilities include mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, and other disorders. Typically they are lifelong in duration and lead to difficulties in self-care, language learning, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. Approximately nine percent of preschool and school-aged children have developmental disabilities. Conservative estimates count the number of individuals with developmental disabilities in the United States at five to eight million. Children with developmental disabilities require early intervention services and often experience continued need of services through much or all of their schooling in order to overcome or compensate for these functional limitations. However, while such children present significant challenges to educators and parents, they also can make great progress when provided appropriate learning materials and experiences.

Literacy is a critical life skill for children with developmental disabilities. Most such children experience significant difficulties learning to read and write. Some also have difficulty developing effective communication skills. These difficulties impact the likelihood of their success in mainstream educational placements, learning at school, completing high school, functioning independently, gaining employment, or demonstrating knowledge to others. Developmental disabilities present substantial challenges to educators, particularly in literacy learning.

(From the Center for Literacy and Disabilities Studies)


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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