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"Developmental Disabilities" Includes More People.

Key legislation in the 1960s authorized federal support for mental retardation services. In 1970, the Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendments significantly expanded the scope of federal legislation beyond mental retardation. The 1970 Act defined the term developmental disability:

"…a disability attributable to mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or another neurological condition found by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to be closely relate to mental retardation or to require treatment similar to that required for mentally retarded individuals…"

More People

This definition was expanded in 1975 to include autism and dyslexia (so long as those with dyslexia also had another developmental disability). As before, the disability also had to be substantial in nature, have originated before the age of 18, and have continued or be expected to continue indefinitely.

The federal definition was intended to apply for planning purposes only. It was not intended to define eligibility for services. Over the years, however, state legislatures began to define eligibility for their services in terms of the federal definition. For instance, it was not until 1985 that the Minnesota Legislature recognized people "with other related conditions" and made them eligible for services.

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