What is IDD?

By: Taryn Oesch – 02/26/2018

Here at The Power of the Dream, we use the acronym “IDD” a lot. It stands for intellectual/developmental disabilities. But what does that mean?

According to the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, an intellectual disability is “a disability that involves significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills.” A developmental disability is “a severe, chronic disability attributed to a mental/cognitive or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments diagnosed or that become obvious before the age of 22” and limits the person in three or more of these areas: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and/or economic self-sufficiency.

Of course, at The Power of the Dream, we know that IDD is so much more than that. Yes, it involves some form of limitation or impairment that requires some adaptations for a person to be successful.

But a person with IDD is also an entrepreneur.

A person with IDD is a son, daughter, sister, brother, friend, spouse.

A person with IDD is an employee at a small business that supports a community’s economy and vibrancy.

A person with IDD is a talented artist.

A person with IDD is … fill in the blank here.

Some common intellectual and developmental disabilities include:

  • Down syndrome occurs when a person is born with a full or partial third Chromosome 21, which changes the person’s development, typically causing mild to moderate cognitive delays. Thanks to improved medicine and education (and, therefore, acceptance), people with Down syndrome are increasingly welcomed by employers.
  • Fragile X syndrome is also a genetic condition, caused by differences in a gene on the X chromosome, which affects a protein involved in brain development. Since males have only one X chromosome, men tend to be more affected than women. Again, there are now a variety of employment opportunities available to people with Fragile X syndrome, especially with support.
  • Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. As its name suggests, people with autism experience a range of symptoms and abilities, including what many people call “Asperger’s syndrome,” which does not include language delays. Again, people with autism have a variety of employment opportunities available to them, with a variety of levels of support.
  • Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder caused by an injury during brain development. It affects movement and muscle coordination. People with cerebral palsy may also experience learning impairment, seizures, and vision or hearing loss. The ABC TV show “Speechless” has brought cerebral palsy (or CP, as it is sometimes known) into the limelight by starring an actor, Micah Fowler, who has CP and who plays a teenager with CP.

Are you seeing a pattern? I am – not just a pattern of intellectual, developmental or other disabilities – but a pattern of opportunity. Thanks to employers who are expanding their definitions of “qualified candidates,” organizations like The Power of the Dream that are providing education and support to people with disabilities and businesses wanting to hire them, and the advocates and self-advocates who prove every day that intellectual diversity is a good thing, we’re seeing more and more opportunities for people with IDD every day.