Understanding Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Although there is much progress yet to be had, over the past 50 years, society has dramatically changed its view of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Today, we recognize both the right and ability of individuals with IDD to lead full and fulfilling lives.

Getting there requires a better understanding among us all of what exactly we’re talking about when we talk about IDD.

The term developmental disability is used to describe a group of conditions caused by an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. IDD is usually present at birth, typically diagnosed before the age of 18, and affects an individual’s physical, intellectual and/or emotional development throughout their lives.

Intellectual disability is a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and to function in daily life. Levels of intellectual disability vary greatly – from a very slight to very severe, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although there is still much to be learned about the causes and prevention of intellectual and developmental disability, we do know they are caused by a variety of factors, some of which are preventable. Some of the common causes of IDD include:

  • Genetic disorders - such as Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome
  • Alcohol use during pregnancy - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Drug use during pregnancy
  • Prenatal exposure to heavy metals such as lead or mercury
  • Complications during birth
  • Exposure to infectious diseases in utero
  • Health problems after birth, including infection with whooping cough, measles and meningitis

Getting Help

The two most important things to understand about IDD are; early intervention is key and help is available.

Bluegrass Access offers programs throughout 17 counties in central Kentucky that provide meaningful experiences and opportunities for individuals with IDD with the goal for individuals to live and participate in their community. Bluegrass Access promotes person-centered care providing services to support an individual’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being to live their best life.

Bluegrass Access is the central point of intake for all services for persons with IDD including all federal waiver programs; Supports for Community Living, Michelle P. Waiver, Consumer Directed Option and many other programs. To learn more call 859.272.7483.

Participants have individualized service plans developed in conjunction with a case manager or support broker and community providers. Available services include Adult Day Training, Behavioral Supports, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Respite Care, Homemaker Services, Personal Care, Attendant Care, Adult Day Health, Supported Employment, Community Living Supports, Goods and Services, and Home Adaptations.

First Steps - Birth to Age 3

For young children, birth through 3 years, who live in central Kentucky, Bluegrass offers First Steps, Kentucky’s Early Intervention System that serves children who have developmental delays or a medical condition that is known to cause a delay.

This program helps ensure babies and toddlers receive early and appropriate intervention essential to helping them have the best opportunity for a healthy and fulfilling life. As part of First Steps, Bluegrass.org provides screening, evaluation and eligibility determination for all referrals, as well as service coordination for families with children in the program.

First Steps service coordinators guide families through the program; coordinate developmental evaluations and determinations regarding eligibility; assist families with obtaining on-going intervention services for their child, if eligible; and assist the family with locating other community resources that may provide additional supports.

Early intervention services may be provided by a variety of professionals such as speech, physical and occupational therapists; developmental interventionists; dietitian; psychologists; and teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing or visually impaired as needed.

To learn more about any of the services available through Bluegrass Access for individuals with IDD, please call Bluegrass Access at 859.272.7483, for children under the age of 3 call First Steps at 859.271.9448.