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Question What are developmental disabilities?

Answer Developmental disabilities are a variety of conditions that become apparent during childhood and cause mental or physical limitations. These conditions include:

  • Autism - limits learning and slows intellectual development. People with autism have great difficulty relating and responding to persons, events or objects. Their interactions with people can be uncertain or confusing. They may have repetitive behaviors such as rocking and unusual hand movements, and they can be highly resistant to change. The cause of autism is still unknown, although most researchers believe it has a biological basis which is probably genetic.
  • Cerebral palsy - a group of conditions that result in the limited or abnormal functioning in the parts of the brain that control movement. Cerebral palsy is usually caused by brain injury before or during birth, but brain damage or injury at any time in life can have the same effect. People with cerebral palsy primarily have difficulty with muscular coordination. They may have seizures or be unable to see, speak, hear or learn as other people do. Severe speech problems are common, sometimes leading people to mistakenly thinking that people with cerebral palsy have mental retardation. This is often not true.
  • Epilepsy - nervous system disorders that result in abnormal electrical discharges of brain cells. This produces seizures that may cause convulsive movements, or partial or total loss of consciousness. Only a small percentage of people with epilepsy also have mental retardation.
  • Mental retardation - results in delays in learning, a slower pace of learning, and difficulty in applying learning. Mental retardation can result from a variety of factors including premature birth, genetic abnormalities, malnutrition, exposure to toxic agents, and social deprivation.
  • Neurological impairments -a group of developmental disabilities including disorders of the brain and central nervous system that considerably limit a person's development, understanding, memory, attention span, fine muscle control, use of language, or ability to adjust to new situations. Generally, these impairments begin during childhood or adolescence, and considerably impair a person' ability to function.
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