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DCD-K1: Understanding of basic historical, legal, and contemporary issues related to services and the educational approaches used to address the needs of children and youth with developmental cognitive disabilities (DCD).

DCD-K2: Understanding of the origins, basic characteristics, and classifications of DCD.

DCD-K4: Understanding of the sources of unique services, networks, agencies, and organizations for students with DCD.

DCD-K5: Understanding of the services and structures supporting interagency collaboration for students with DCD.

Picture of para in the classroom supporting three students.Introduction

In 1975, the U.S. Congress passed the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, which has been known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) since the law was amended in 1990. This legislation guarantees a free and appropriate public education to all children with disabilities until age 21. All children who have a disability have the right to go to school and are guaranteed the provision of special education services funded by the federal government. Since the law was first passed, Congress has amended it several times to help clarify its requirements and better meet the needs of students with disabilities. In addition to IDEA and its guidelines, each state has its own laws that provide mandates and guidelines about special education services provided to qualifying students.

There are many categories in which a student may qualify for special education services. Each school district must identify, evaluate, and determine appropriate services and placement for students with disabilities. One of these special education categories is called Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD)glossary icon.

This unit will provide a basic overview of DCD, such as historical information about laws and policies that form the foundation for special education for students with DCD, definitions and clarifications of basic terms and acronyms, the criteria and processes for determining student eligibility for special education, and the requirements and tools for evaluating and re-evaluating students who are classified within the DCD category. In addition, this unit covers the educational options for students who are determined eligible for services relating to DCD.

Unit Objectives

Upon completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • Define the special education category of Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD).
  • Describe how students with cognitive and adaptive behavior impairments qualify for special education under the DCD criteria.
  • Identify special education options available to students with DCD.
  • Discuss the basic role of a paraprofessional in knowing and understanding key information, definitions, eligibility determination criteria, and processes and options for students who qualify for special education under the DCD category.


Minnesota Department of Education. (2004). Promising practices for the identification of individuals with development disabilities (draft) (Developmental Cognitive Disability Manual). Retrieved March 21, 2007, from 


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