Who Is Eligible For Services?

Any resident of the State of California who has a developmental disability which constitutes a substantial handicap is eligible for services. The disability must have originated before the person is 18 years old. Developmental disabilities include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and other neurological conditions closely related to intellectual disability or requiring similar treatment.
Far Northern Regional Center provides services to people residing in Northern California who are residents of the following counties: Butte, Modoc, Siskiyou, Glenn, Plumas, Tehama, Lassen, Shasta or Trinity.

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is characterized both by a significantly below-average score on a test of mental ability or intelligence and by limitations in the ability to function in areas of daily life, such as communication, self-care, and getting along in social situations and school activities. Intellectual disability is sometimes referred to as a cognitive disability or mental retardation.
Children with intellectual disability can and do learn new skills, but they develop more slowly than children with average intelligence and adaptive skills. There are different degrees of Intellectual disability, ranging from mild to profound. A person’s level of Intellectual disability can be defined by their intelligence quotient (IQ), or by the types and amount of support they need.

Cerebral Palsy

The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age. The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy. A small number of children have cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.


Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity – from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development – can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors. Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic tests for epilepsy.


Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. One should keep in mind however, that autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees – this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. By learning the signs, a child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention programs.
Read More: DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Autism

Other Developmental Disabilities

Other Developmental Disabilities are those handicapping conditions similar to intellectual disability that require treatment or services (i.e., care and management) similar to that required by individuals with intellectual disability. This does not include handicapping conditions that are solely psychiatric or physical in nature. The handicapping conditions must occur before age 18, result in a substantial handicap, be likely to continue indefinitely, and involve brain damage or dysfunction. Examples of conditions might include intracranial neoplasms, degenerative brain disease or brain damage associated with accidents.

Some Terminology

  • A developmental disability is a disability which originates before an individual attains age 18, continues or can be expected to continue indefinitely, and constitutes a substantial handicap for the individual. This term includes the diagnoses of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism. This term also includes handicapping conditions found to be closely related to mental retardation or requiring treatment similar to that required for persons with mental retardation, but does not include other handicapping conditions that are solely physical in nature. (Lanterman Act, Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 4512.)
  • Substantial handicap means the individual’s needs cannot be adequately met by participating in those social, educational, vocational, recreational, medical, or other resources which generally are expected to be available to other non-handicapped individuals in the community