Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a Developmental Disability?

In Illinois, persons are considered to have a developmental disability if they have been diagnosed with one or more of the following conditions, manifested before age 22: “mental retardation”, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism.

Other examples are Down Syndrome and Rett Syndrome or other neurological conditions when such conditions result in impairment of general intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior similar to that of a person with “mental retardation”.

A developmental disability is usually present at birth and continues, or can be expected to continue, indefinitely and constitutes a substantial handicap for the individual

What is the difference between mental illness and “mental retardation”?

Mental illness describes a broad range of mental and emotional conditions characterized by impairment of an individual^s normal, emotional, or behavioral functioning. Cognitive disabilities ( mental retardation), organic brain damage, and learning disabilities, exist through the life span and cannot be “cured”.

Doesn’t Arc stand for the Association for Retarded Citizens?

That was the original name before the terms “mental retardation and retarded” became derogatory. At the request of people with disabilities who suffered from being called these terms, the name was changed to “The Arc”, which is not an acronym.

What does The Arc Do?

Helps families to raise their children with disabilities at home.

Supports adults with disabilities to live safely in their communities, close to work, family and friends.

Advocates for the civil rights of people with disabilities

What is a respectful term to use instead of “mental retardation”?

“Intellectual disability” or “Cognitive disability” describe this type of diagnosis

It is hurtful to refer to someone as a “retard”.

I am uneasy meeting someone who I think has a developmental disability. I’m not sure how to talk to them or that they will understand me.

Remember that you are meeting a person, not a disability

Presume Competence, speak normally and assume the person understands you, even if you are uncertain of their understanding. You will be able to read body language if the person is not verbal. It’s amazing how much of human communication has nothing to do with speech.

Treat everyone age appropriately. An adult with a developmental disability is not a child in an adult’s body.

Relax and get to know the person better. You will find you have more in common than you have differences.

Where do people with developmental disabilities live?

There are approximately 200,000 Illinoisans with developmental disabilities and approximately 82 percent of those people live at home with their families.

Illinois ranks 3rd in the states that still institutionalize people with developmental disabilities.

Many adults with developmental disabilities live in groups homes of 4 or 5 people.

Others live in their own homes with supports provided by community agencies like The Arc.

What do people with developmental disabilities do?

There is no guarantee of services for adults with disabilities after leaving school.

The options are: work in the community, supported employment, self employment, day training programs, stay at home, volunteer, participate in community activities

People with developmental disabilities want what we all aspire to: love, friends, family, meaningful work, a home and financial security.