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Dr. Elizabeth Boggs of the National Association of Retarded Citizens and Dr. Elsie Helsel of the United Cerebral Palsy Association observed how the pace of funding and programming for people with disabilities had slackened in the late 1960s. They decided a new approach was needed that addressed disability and funding issues in a more comprehensive manner.


The 1970s began with the introduction of the Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments of 1970 (P. L. 91-517). These amendments gave states broad planning and implementation responsibilities to develop a program of services and offer local communities a voice in determining needs, priorities, and a delivery system. The Act authorized the creation of a Developmental Disabilities Council in each state to serve in a planning and advisory capacity, and create a forum for discussions among parents, people with disabilities, state agencies, and private service providers.

The term "developmental disability" was created to refer to "a disability attributable to mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or another neurological condition," and used for planning purposes and funding allocations.

In 1975, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act made significant changes to the 1970 legislation and the term developmental disability was broadened to include autism and dyslexia. The Act was revised again in 1978 and the term developmental disability was again redefined.