DDS Eligibility Process

By Karen B. Mariscal

Assuming your child needs DDS services, the next step is to apply to DDS. The regulations state that a person 18 or older is eligible if he or she:

1) Is domiciled in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

2) is a person with an intellectual disability, as defined in 115 CMR 2.01.

How DDS defines "intellectual disability" is beyond the scope of this article, but note that this is the preferred term to describe the condition of mental retardation, and, for purposes of 115 CMR 2.00, is synonymous with the term mental retardation. DDS defines mental retardation as:

- significantly sub-average intellectual functioning (which the DDS regulations further define as an intelligence test score of about 70 or below); AND

- that is related to and exists at the same time as significant limitations in adaptive functioning (see below for definition); AND

- a condition that manifests before age 18. (Note that under the new Autism Omnibus Law, a child with a primary diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Prader-Willi Syndrome, or Smith-Magenis Syndrome no longer has to show that he or she has an IQ of about 70 or lower in order to obtain DDS services, but still must show substantial functional impairment. See DDS’s Eligibility Fact Sheet

The Application for DDS Eligibility must be sent to the state’s DDS Eligibility Team.  The application form process requires that an application form (Application for DDS Eligibility) be sent to the DDS Eligibility Team. This form can be found here. As you can see, quite a bit of material is required, including all IQ tests taken before the child turned 18, so you may want to start compiling this information ahead of time.

Once all the information is received, DDS contacts the applicant or guardian to arrange for an intake interview. This interview can take place at the DDS Regional Office, the Area Office, or other location. The intake process generally consists of the initial interview, the gathering of relevant information (which may include requests for additional assessments or testing) and a clinical assessment that assists the DDS to identify needed resources. They may visit your child at her school to talk to her teachers and see her in action. Make sure you are completely honest in the interview and accurately describe your child’s functioning level. We parents are very proud of our kids and how far they have come. This is not the time to expound on that. This is the time to discuss exactly what your child can and cannot do.

You are responsible for obtaining all relevant information needed to determine eligibility and must make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information is received by the Department in a timely manner. When all information is gathered and assessments completed, the Regional Eligibility Team Psychologist conducts a review and makes the determination decision after conferring with members of the Eligibility Team. The Regional Eligibility Team is asked to make a determination within 60 days. If no final determination can be reached after 60 days due to incomplete information, the DDS may extend the process for an additional 60 days. After 120 days, the Regional Eligibility Manager will send a formal decision letter based on the information that has been made available to DDS. This decision is communicated to the applicant or his/her guardian and to the appropriate DDS Area Office.

You have the right to appeal any findings contained in the eligibility letter within 30 days of receiving the letter. Information about how to make an appeal will be sent to you with the eligibility determination letter.

You may want to discuss your child’s functioning level with your spouse beforehand, if you are an optimistic, “glass half-full” type person, as I am, and your spouse is more of a realist. 

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