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National Service and Inclusion Project

Inclusion: The active engagement of people with disabilities as service members in all levels of national and community service

Visit NSIP's sister site The National Service to Employment Project (NextSTEP)


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People with Developmental and Cognitive Disabilities

Adapted from training materials developed by United Cerebral Palsy


There can be an overlap in defining developmental and cognitive disabilities. "Developmental" and "cognitive" are very broad labels, and do not particularly indicate the level of skill or ability that an individual may have.

"Developmental disability" is a legal umbrella term that refers to disabilities present before an individual reaches age 22. Congenital developmental disabilities exist at birth, but developmental disabilities can also be acquired post birth. Examples of developmental disabilities are:

Though not all of these disabilities necessarily result in decreased intellectual functioning, often people use the term to refer to disabilities that have a component affecting cognitive function.

"Cognitive disabilities" generally refers to any disability affecting mental processes. Examples include:

Interaction Tips

Examples of Accommodations

Remember that many individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities do not have limited intellectual functioning. When accommodations are necessary, implement them respectfully, recognizing the individual as an adult. Programmatic and/or physical accommodations will be determined by the needs of each individual.

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©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.