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Developmental Disability Programs and Information

Wisconsin has many programs designed to improve the lives of children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. This page is designed to help those with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their caregivers find programs that meet their needs.

Person in red jacket talking on a cell phone


Adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities should reach out to their local aging and disability resource center (ADRC) to receive information about program options. Enrollment for all adult programs must be done through your local ADRC.

Find information about adult programs on our Programs for Adults with Developmental or Intellectual Disabilities page.

Federal Definition of Developmental Disability

A person is considered to meet the Federal definition of developmental disability if they have either:

  • A level of intellectual disability described in the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)
  • A related condition as defined by 42 CFR § 435.1009 which states, "Person with related conditions" means individuals who have a severe, chronic disability that meets all of the following conditions:
    • It is attributable to either:
      • Cerebral palsy or epilepsy.
      • Any other condition, other than mental illness, found to be closely related to intellectual disability because this condition results in impairment of general intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior similar to that of persons with intellectual disability, and requires treatment or services similar to those required for these persons.
    • It is manifested before the person reaches age 22.
    • It is likely to continue indefinitely.
    • It results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: self-care, understanding and use of language, learning, mobility, self-direction, or capacity for independent living.

Wisconsin's definition of developmental disability is broader than the federal definition, in that it does not include the restrictive clauses "b" (onset before age 22) and "d" (substantial functional limitations) of the federal definition. In order to be eligible for home and community-based waivers for developmental disabilities, the consumer must meet the federal definition of developmental disability.

Happy teen wearing warm hat with his hand over his mouth


Information about the programs that assist families in caring for a child with developmental and intellectual disabilities at home and in the community is on our Services for Children with Delays or Disabilities page.

Wisconsin's Definition of Developmental Disabilities

(Wis Stat. § 51.01 (5) (a)-(b))

"Developmental disability" means a disability attributable to brain injury, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, Prader-Willi syndrome, intellectual disability, or another neurological condition closely related to an intellectual disability or requiring treatment similar to that required for individuals with an intellectual disability, which has continued or can be expected to continue indefinitely and constitutes a substantial handicap to the afflicted individual.

"Developmental disability" does not include dementia that is primarily caused by degenerative brain disorder.

Last revised May 18, 2023