Understanding Developmental Disabilities

People with a developmental disability today want to be active participants in their communities. To do that, they rely on a variety of local programs and services that promote inclusion and involvement.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services financially assists with developmental services and programs that support inclusion for adults with a developmental disability and their families. These services allow them to live, work and participate in a wide range of activities in their communities. Community agencies deliver most of the available services and supports.

A Developmental Disability

  • is a disability that a person is born with or that begins before he or she turns 18
  • permanently limits a person's ability to learn
  • can be mild or severe

People with a developmental disability may learn, understand or remember things at a slower pace than others. This can affect their personal care, language skills and their ability to live without support.

Who has a developmental disability?

About one per cent of Ontarians have a developmental disability. Some people with a developmental disability were born with Down syndrome. Some were born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Some have autism.

Others may have had an illness or accident before they turned 18, which limited their intellectual development.

People with a developmental disability can still participate fully in their communities. They can be great athletes, artists, workers, advocates, neighbours and friends. They're an important part of the community and contribute to the strength of our diverse province.

Definition of Developmental Disability

(the definition from the new legislation at www.mcss.gov.on.ca). Under section 3 of the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008:

(1) A person has a developmental disability for the purposes of this Act if the person has the prescribed significant limitations in cognitive functioning and adaptive functioning and those limitations,

(a) originated before the person reached 18 years of age;

(b) are likely to be life-long in nature; and

(c) affect areas of major life activity, such as personal care, language skills, learning abilities, the capacity to live independently as an adult or any other prescribed activity. 2008, c.14, s.3 (1).

  • “adaptive functioning” means a person’s capacity to gain personal independence, based on the person’s ability to learn and apply conceptual, social and practical skills in his or her everyday life; (“fonctionnement adaptatif”)
  • “cognitive functioning” means a person’s intellectual capacity, including the capacity to reason, organize, plan, make judgments and identify consequences. (“fonctionnement cognitif”) 2008, c.14, s.3 (2).

Services Provided

(from “About The Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008”).

The new Act lists the services and supports that will be funded. These are:

  • Residential services and supports for adults who live in:
    • Intensive support residences - these are homes where one or two adults with a developmental disability live and get full-time services and supports from an agency.
    • Supported group living residences - these are homes where three or more adults with a developmental disability live and get services and supports from an agency.
    • Host family residences - this is where one or more adults with a developmental disability live with a family that is not their own. They get care and support from the "host family". The "host family" is paid by an agency for the support they provide. Sometimes people call this living in a "family home" or "home share".
    • Supported independent living residences - this is where one or more adults with a developmental disability live on their own (they may share an apartment together, for example) and get some help from an agency.
  • Activities of daily living services and supports to help people with:
    making meals
    • getting dressed
    • personal hygiene (like bathing, brushing teeth and using the toilet)
    • taking their medication.

This also includes support for training to help people with life skills like:

  • managing money
  • banking
  • using the bus, cabs and the subway.
  • Community participation services and supports to help with:
    • social and recreational activities (like using community centre programs or joining a local club)
    • work activities
    • volunteer activities
    • other services and supports
  • Caregiver respite services and supports to help:
    • the main family members or special friends who care for the adult with a developmental disability get some rest and support.
      • Professional and specialized services provided by a:
        • psychologist
        • social worker
        • speech language pathologist
        • other professionals.
      • Person-directed planning services and supports to help adults with a developmental disability:
        • identify their life dreams and goals
        • find and use services and supports in their lives to make their plan happen

Other info/Stats

  • Approximately 80,500 individuals age five and over in Ontario have a developmental disability (2009)
  • The prevalence rate of people who have a developmental disability in Ontario is 0.7% (Canadian Survey on Disbilitay 2012-2013)
    • Approximately 52,500 adults with a developmental disability receive income support through the Ontario Disability Support Program (2010);
  • Services and supports are delivered primarily through a network of approximately 385 non-profit, board-operated transfer payment agencies which:
    • Employ more than 18,000 staff (2014);
  • Life expectancy of people who have a developmental disability has increased as a result of improvements in medical technology and better health care
  • Today, many Ontarians who have a developmental disability live in communities with parents or other relatives, with additional supports such as day programs, respite, etc.