DDS Supports

By Karen B. Mariscal

Assuming your child is eligible for DDS support, he or she may receive one or more of the following.


For those that receive a “Priority One” designation for residential services (usually only those children who are already in residential before they turn 18),  DDS may offer 24-hour residential supports, although some also provide supports that entail less than round the clock supervision.  A typical 24-hour residential program would have a house manager, who oversees and coordinates all of the home-based supports provided to the resident, as well as direct care staff, who are responsible for much of the day to day assistance an individual might need.


Shared living is a residential support in which an individual resides with another, non-disabled person or host family. DS makes efforts to match an individual with an optimal living situation that offers an appropriate level of support and supervision as well as oversight, training and assistance by the provider agency.


This is a service provided to individuals who meet the criteria for individual supports through DDS and who do not require 24-hour residential support, but typically need intermittent assistance and training in certain areas of maintaining their own apartment or generally independent living situation.  Examples of supports provided might include assistance with cooking and meal preparation, bill paying, attending medical appointments and accessing community resources.  (Generally people receiving Individual Supports have been living on their own with the help of their families, and the family circumstances change such that the family is no longer able to help.)


These programs offer respite to individuals at their own home-style sites. Facility-based respite can involve a day, overnight, weekend, or possibly a longer stay. This support offers individuals the opportunity to enjoy social and recreational opportunities with peers and also provides for families a sometimes much-needed break from the work and stress of day-to-day provision of care.


DDS has a network of providers (such as the Charles River Center in Needham, Advocates, Inc. based in Framingham, etc.) that offer an array of employment-related supports to individuals.  You should interview various providers in your area and choose the one that best suits your child’s needs, but don’t stop there – work with your chosen provider to individualize the supports for your child so that he can best meet his employment goals.  

Supports offered vary, but a main focus is on the development of individual community employment opportunities in which a person is hired by a business directly and the provider offers job coaching and periodic check-ins based on the person’s ongoing support needs. Some providers also offer group employment where a number of individuals work in a community business setting with a job coach on site. Community Based Day Support programs include a career exploration and planning component for individuals who are on a pathway to employment, and can also provide complementary support services for individuals who work part-time in individual or group supported employment.


Day Habilitation Programs, funded and licensed by MassHealth, typically work with individuals who are not able to work in any capacity (including volunteer), and who might desire a day structured around social and recreational activities, or would benefit from the availability of ancillary supports such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language, and other assistance.


Age 14-15

Planning at this point begins with a vision of what the student wants and what will be in his/her best interest. There should be a Statement of Needed Transition Services listed in the IEP.

Age 16-18

Refine the vision and identify transition needs in the Transition Planning Form at the IEP. Assess interests, aptitudes and abilities, community based learning opportunities, work, and home based learning opportunities. Gather information about Social Security and MassHealth.

Age 18

Age of Majority – You now may need to file for guardianship.  Under Massachusetts law, students become responsible for making decisions about their own medical and education programs and services, unless a court appointed guardian is in place. If appropriate, students or guardians should apply for SSI. Eligibility for DDS adult services can be determined at age 18 and DDS eligibility application should be made at this time. Also if your child is a male, you need to file with the draft board – sad but true.

Age 18-20

School system makes the 688 referral. DDS Area Office assigns a Transition Coordinator. 

Age 20-21

DDS as the Transitional Agency, completes an Individual Transitional Plan (ITP) outlining needed services and supports and also identifying he state agency responsible for them. Continue community and work based learning opportunities as identified in IEP and ITP. DDS Transition Coordinator continues as the primary DDS contact for the individual, family and school system.

Age 22

Begin Adult DDS Services that may include employment, work training activities, day habilitation, transportation, individual or family support, and in some cases, residential supports.

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