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Colorado Definition of “Developmental Disability”

Colorado Definition of “Developmental Disability”

The Autism Society of Colorado supports the proposed rule changes regarding the Colorado definition of "developmental disability." We need your support. Please call or write today to support the proposed rule change, or to share your story.

You can:

1. Send written comments by e-mail to Shari Repinski at the Division for Developmental Disabilities at – be sure to put "Rule change" in the subject line – or by mail to Shari Repinski, DDD, 4055 S. Lowell Blvd, Denver, CO 80236.
2. Call 303-866-7465 or 1-866-504-9734 and leave a recorded message.
3. Attend a public meeting about the proposed rules. April 28, 2-5 pm, at Ft. Logan Mental Health Auditorium, Denver, May 12, 2-5 pm at the Mental Health Institute—Geriatrics Auditorium, Pueblo, or May 5, 2-5 pm at the Mesa County Dept. of Human Services, Grand Junction.

Your message could include the following points--in your own words (discussion of these points is below):

1. Colorado law is clear: A developmental disability can be defined by intellectual functioning OR adaptive behavior.
2. ALL children and young adults who meet the definition of "developmental disability" should be given the same, fair, nondiscriminatory right to access services.
3. People are being inappropriately denied eligibility because existing rules result in inconsistent and inequitable determinations.


As you know, many individual with ASD and other developmental disabilities, regardless of IQ, are challenged in activities of daily living and need significant support. Think, for example, of an individual who can read well, but who cannot safely cross a street, wash his hair or tie his shoe. We all know that there are numbers of such people who, despite intelligence in near average or average range, do not possess adequate judgment to live safely without supervision.

Some critical state services are accessible only to people who satisfy the definition of "developmental disability." Colorado law is clear: A "developmental disability" can be defined by intellectual functioning OR adaptive behavior. Both types of impairment are equally deserving of access to services.

Although the law is clear, the rules used to implement the law are not clear, or perhaps the rules are just not being utilized correctly. Either way, experience indicates that only intellectual functioning is being used to determine "developmental disability". Few people with IQs over 70 with low adaptive behavior evaluations are found eligible for such services.

The two rule changes -- 16.120 and 16.420 -- would make Colorado rules consistent with the law and clearly state that a "developmental disability" can be defined by intellectual functioning OR adaptive behavior and set forth standards for such determinations.

Some say that the current budget and waitlists are an obstacle to the rule change. We say that both are irrelevant. We say that children and adults – regardless of the type of impairment -- have the right to equal access, and to take their turn in line, just like everyone else. Anything less than equal access is discrimination and in violation of current Colorado law.

Please take just 5 minutes to call or write today to support the proposed rule change, or to share your story regarding the service needs of a person with low adaptive behavior skills. Time is of the essence. (The comment period is open until May 20, but we believe support will be most effective if it is delivered now, and in great numbers.)

For a copy of the proposed rules and more information, see

If you have questions about the rule changes, please contact one of the members of the DD Definition work group: Corry Robinson;; Liz Fusellier,; Keith Larsen, or Marijo Rymer ,

Best Regards,
Jill Tappert
Proud Mother of Abigail (Autism, ADHD, Anxiety-NOS, SPD, Motor Discoordination) and Calvin (NT)
Member, Public Policy Committee, Autism Society of Colorado