What is a Developmental Disability?

Learn more about intellectual and developmental disabilities—and what you can do to help.

“Developmental disability” is an umbrella term that includes intellectual disability, but also includes other disabilities that are apparent during childhood.

Developmental disabilities are chronic disabilities that can be cognitive, physical or both. They appear before the age of 22 and are likely to be lifelong. Some developmental disabilities are largely physical issues, while some people may have a condition that includes a physical and intellectual disability.

An intellectual disability is a disability that is broadly related to thought processes and is characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. An intellectual or developmental disability can come in numerous forms, such as Down syndrome, autism or cerebral palsy; other times, people can have disabilities that are unnamed or even so mild as to be all but imperceptible.

What does the symbol mean?

This symbol, a person waving their hand and asking to be included, serves as a reminder that people of all abilities should be included in all aspects of life.

Symbol for Developmental Disability Awareness Month

Raising/waving a hand: We raise our hand because we all want to be included—at home, at work, at school, at church and in the community. What can we all do to make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities?

Heart: It’s a gentle reminder that behind every person, and behind every disability, is the heart of a unique individual with their own goals. They deserve to be respected and supported in their journey.