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Questions & Answers

What is a developmental disability?

A developmental disability is a mental or physical impairment that occurs before age 22, continues indefinitely and causes substantial difficulties in self-care, learning, mobility and economic independence. 

Who are the people who have developmental disabilities?

Developmental disabilities cut across all lines of race, educational, social and economic background. Estimates are that of every 100 people, 2-3 have some level of MR/DD. 

What causes developmental disabilities?

Any condition that impairs development before birth, during birth or in the early years can cause developmental disabilities. In most instances, there is no known cause for an individual's disability. Genetic irregularities; problems during pregnancy, including malnutrition, poor prenatal care, illnesses like German measles, infections and alcohol or substance abuse; birth trauma and premature birth; illnesses or injuries in infancy such as meningitis, a blow to the head or near drowning and environmental factors such as lead poisoning and malnutrition can all result in MR/DD. 

What is the difference between mental retardation and mental illness?

Mental retardation refers to below average intellectual functioning and can be expected to be permanent. A person who has mental retardation can be expected to behave rationally at his or her functional level. In Ohio, an estimated 1.4-1.9 percent of the general population has a severe functional limitation due to mental retardation or other developmental disabilities.

Mental illness is a term that covers a group of mental disorders that cause disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating. These disturbances often result in a substantially diminished capacity to cope with the ordinary demands of life. Such common mental illnesses are depression, schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. People with mental illness are usually of normal intelligence, although they may have trouble functioning at a normal level due to the illness. With a variety of medications and treatments available, a person with mental illness may be able to control symptoms and lead a productive life in the community. In Ohio, approximately one in three individuals is affected by mental illness. 

What's the potential for people who have developmental disabilities?

All individuals who have other developmental disabilities can learn, develop and grow. Most can become productive participants in their community. To do so, they need many of the same things that everyone else does--education, vocational training, health care, recreational and religious opportunities. They may also need specialized services offered by organizations like the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

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Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities
1275 Lakeside Avenue East
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1129
PHONE: (216)241-8230 - FAX: (216)861-0253