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This was a slight improvement over the prognosis outlined in a 1971 report of the President's Committee on Mental Retardation. In 1971, the belief was that the individual "may contribute partially to self-maintenance under complete supervision; can develop self-protection skills to a minimal useful level in controlled environment". There was no mention of vocational, let alone employment, potential.

People with disabilities continued to be defined by the lack of capability and the "expected outcome" and therefore denied opportunities to move beyond conservative expectations. People defined as incapable of working in the real world are not likely to be offered opportunities to work in the real world.

In this way, these charts describing the developmental characteristics or functioning levels of individuals became self fulfilling prophecies. Similarly, the belief was that if we could develop better tests to better predict functioning level, then we could do a better job in planning for the future.

If we could only document "need" in these ways, then we could estimate in advance how many beds were needed, how many sheltered workshop slots were needed, how many behavior beds, how many respite beds, and so on. We could forecast service levels, building programs and budgets.

President's Committee on Mental Retardation
President's Committee on
Mental Retardation

Individual Planning Becomes an Inherent Part of the Definition of "Developmental Disability"

The Developmental Disabilities Act of 1984 recognized the importance of linking service delivery to individual planning and coordination. P.L. 98-527 stated that "a developmental disability is a severe, chronic disability which… reflects the person's need for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment or other services which are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated."

This definition was linked to the requirement that each person receiving services under the Act must have an individual habilitation plan.

Developmental Disabilities Office
Developmental Disabilities Office