Regional Centers

The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) at is the agency through which the state of California (CA) provides various services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities. More intensive services are provided through three state-operated Developmental Centers (DC’s), which are licensed as general acute care hospitals and intermediate care facilities. In addition, services are offered through 21 Regional Centers, which have more than 40 offices located throughout CA and serve as a local resource to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Under CA’s Early Interventions Services Act, infants and toddlers from birth through 36 months who are at risk of having developmental disabilities or who have a developmental delay may qualify for services. In addition, individuals at risk of having a child with a developmental disability (such as a parent of a child with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)) may qualify for services. These conditions need to be diagnosed by qualified personnel (including part of a multidisciplinary team and parents) by means of assessment and evaluation. An “eligible infant or toddler” who may qualify for Early Start, or early intervention services, is required to meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Developmental Delay (i.e., by at least 33%) in one or more of the following five areas: cognitive development; physical and motor development, including vision and hearing; communication development; social or emotional development; or adaptive development
  2. Established Risk Conditions (e.g., various genetic disorders, extreme prematurity) or with conditions of known etiology or conditions (e.g., prenatal alcohol exposure) with established harmful developmental consequences
  3. High Risk of having substantial developmental disability due to a combination of biomedical risk factors

The Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act (also known as the Lanterman Act AB846) provides individuals with developmental disabilities the right to services and supports that enable them to live a more independent and normal life. To be eligible for services (especially past the age of 3 and/or after release from Early Start), a person must have a “Developmental Disability” that originates before the individual’s 18th birthday, continues or can be expected to continue indefinitely, and constitutes a substantial disability for that person. Eligibility is ultimately determined by the Regional Center and is established through diagnosis and assessment. As defined by DDS, “Developmental Disability” shall include one or more of the following five conditions:

  1. Intellectual Disability
  2. Cerebral Palsy
  3. Epilepsy
  4. Autism
  5. Other disabling conditions found to be closely related to intellectual disability or to require treatment similar to that required for individuals with an intellectual disability, (but shall not include other handicapping conditions that are solely physical in nature)

“Substantial disability” means the existence of significant functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity as appropriate to the age of the person:

  1. Self-Care
  2. Receptive and Expressive Language
  3. Learning
  4. Mobility
  5. Self-Direction
  6. Capacity for Independent Living
  7. Economic Self-Sufficiency