Colorado finally has some good news for people diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
On Aug. 1, the state of Colorado adopted a new rule for defining developmental disability. Historically, the Colorado definition of developmental disability applied only to people with cognitive impairments (an IQ of 70 or below). This definition frequently excluded people with diagnoses of the Autism Spectrum (including Autism, Asperger’s and Pervasive Developmental Disorder) who may have borderline or average IQs but lacked some of the skills necessary to live independently in the community. The new rule expands access to Supported Living and Residential Services to those people.
The new rule includes four criteria that must be met. The first is that the disability is manifested before the age of 22. The disability may have occurred in utero, at birth or any time during childhood up to age 22, when the human-development process is generally believed to enter adulthood.
The second criterion is that the condition must constitute a substantial disability to the affected person. A substantial disability is one that significantly impairs cognitive or adaptive functioning as evidenced by scores on either intelligence testing or adaptive behavior testing that fall at least two standard deviations below the norm.
This is the criterion that has changed the most. Previously, a person had to demonstrate low IQ and low adaptive behaviors. Now, a person can demonstrate low adaptive scores without low IQ. Adaptive behavior tests look at how people act in different situations. Examples of adaptive behavior include taking care of personal needs such as hygiene, household skills such as cooking, communicating with others and socially appropriate behavior. A person can show deficits in these areas and potentially meet the definition.
The final two criteria relate to the cause of the disability. The disability must be attributable to an intellectual disability or related conditions that include cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism or other neurological conditions. A person will not meet the definition of a developmental disability if it can be demonstrated that the impairments are attributable to only a physical or sensory impairment or a mental illness.
Once a person has been determined to have a developmental disability, he or she may be eligible for a variety of programs through the state of Colorado. The potential programs will vary according to the person’s age and level of need. Unfortunately, many of the programs have long waiting lists, and with the expansion of the definition, these waiting lists are likely to grow.
Any people who wish to be determined to have a developmental disability should request a determination from their local Community Centered Board. Community Connections serves as the statutorily designated CCB for Southwest Colorado.
More information about the new definition, application process and available programs can be found at Community Connections’ website at www.communityconnectionsco.org or the Colorado Division for Developmental Disabilities website at www.colorado.gov/cdhs/ddd. Or call Community Connections at 385-3445.
Tara Kiene is director of case management with Community Connections Inc.