What is Connecticut’s “DDS”?

Published on October 27, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

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If you have been a resident of Connecticut for a while, you might be confused when you hear references to “DDS.”  What is this?  Is this a new State agency?

In Connecticut, DDS is the Department of Developmental Services; it is the agency formerly known as “DMR,” or the “Department of Mental Retardation.”

Many in the disability rights community, myself included, felt that “DMR” was a name whose time had long since passed.  In fact, from a special education perspective, we have been referring to children and adolescents with significant cognitive deficits as “intellectually disabled,” rather than “mentally retarded,” for several years now in our Connecticut IEPs.  It was, therefore, a welcome change when “DMR” became “DDS” in 2007.

But is the transformation of DMR to DDS in name only?

This is a good question, the answer to which remains to be seen.  I know that a number of the people who “pushed” for this change of agency focus were doing so not just because they felt that the term “mental retardation” was anachronistic, but also because they saw a growing need for a more comprehensive agency to support those with more pervasive developmental delays, such as individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

The hope was that an umbrella agency that covered all individuals with developmental disabilities would better serve the needs of many who were previously left out of the support of this agency.

Has that happened?  Well…sort of.  I hear mixed reviews from the parents of children with disabilities whom I represent for special education matters.   At this point, I don’t think we have a definitive answer as to whether the change occurred on a deeper level than the letterhead.  And let’s face it, the level of satisfaction which the public has with virtually any State agency varies.  But, at least it’s a start.

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