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Individual Supports

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Joint Position Statement of AAIDD and The Arc

Individual supports, such as assistive technology and personal assistance, make it possible for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)* to function in daily life.


Our constituents frequently are unable to perform unassisted in basic areas of everyday life such as communicating, interacting with others, completing daily living routines, and moving in and around the home and community.  All too often, individual supports are denied because of restrictive criteria such as age, disability label, severity of the disability, problem behavior, motor or sensory limitations, or test scores.


Our constituents must receive the supports necessary to lead a meaningful life in the community.  These supports should be available based upon functional needs, not eligibility criteria such as diagnosis or income. Common areas of individual support include:

  • Communication. People learn to communicate in many ways, such as personalized gestures and sounds, picture symbols, manual signs, and spoken language.  Support must be available to help improve an individual’s communication and social interactions as well as reduce challenging behaviors.
  • Assistive Technology. People must have access to devices, services, and training that improve independence, mobility, communication, environmental control, and self-determination.  Designers, manufacturers, service providers, educators and our constituents with their families should be educated about the benefits of technology.
  • Personal Assistance. Adults (and parents of children under 21) should be able to hire and fire personal assistants to help them perform everyday activities, make decisions, and exercise control over their lives.

Supports must be individually planned and applied according to the principles of person-centered planning, self-determination and individual outcomes, and team collaboration.  The individual supports must be independently and regularly monitored for quality, safety, and effectiveness.


Board of Directors, AAIDD
August 18, 2008

Board of Directors, The Arc of the United States
August 4, 2008    

Congress of Delegates, The Arc of the United States
November 8, 2008  

Reviewed and extended without revision, 2011


Intellectual Disability (ID) is a lifelong condition where significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior emerge during the developmental period (before adulthood).

Developmental Disabilities (DD), first defined in 1975 federal legislation now known as “The DD Act,”, are a group of lifelong conditions that emerge during the developmental period and result in some level of functional limitation in learning, language, communication, cognition, behavior, socialization, or mobility. The most common DD conditions are intellectual disability, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, and fragile X syndrome.

The acronym “IDD” is used to describe a group that includes either people with both ID and another DD or a group that includes people with ID or another DD. The supports that people with IDD need to meet their goals vary in intensity from intermittent to pervasive.

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