Harbor Regional Center serves over 17,000 people with
developmental disabilities, and their families, who reside in the
South Bay, Harbor, Long Beach, and southeast areas of Los Angeles
Regional centers serve people of all ages with developmental
disabilities and their families, infants with a significant
developmental delay, high risk, or established risk for
developmental disabiliy, and pregnant women who are at risk for
having a child with this type of disability.
If you think you, your child, or someone you know may have a
developmental disability, please review the information in this
Development disabilities include intellectual disability,
cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and other disabling conditions
that are found to be closely related to intellectual disability
or to require the same kinds of services.
Harbor Regional Center provides free intake and assessment
services to any person who is believed to have a developmental
disability. The purpose of the intake and assessment is to
determine whether the person is eligible for ongoing regional
center services. To be eligible for ongoing services, the
condition must have occurred before the age of 18, be likely to
continue indefinitely, and constitute a “substantial” disability
for the person. A disability is “substantial” if it affects three
or more of seven major life areas (for example, a person’s
ability to communicate or to learn).
The regional center provides early intervention services to
infants and toddlers between birth and three years of age, who
are developmentally delayed, or have conditions that present an
established risk of developmental disability or are at high risk,
and prenatal diagnosis and genetic counseling services to
pregnant women who are believed to be at risk of giving birth to
a child with a developmental disability.
A Closer Look at the Developmental Disabilities
What is a developmental disability?
A developmental disability is a condition which originates during
a person’s developmental period (birth – age 18), considered to
be life long, and is caused by intellectual disability, autism
spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or other conditions
similar to intellectual disability that may require the same
treatment and services as someone with an intellectual
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder
that affects how the brain functions and usually becomes apparent
by the time a child reaches the age of three, though some
promising diagnostic studies have been able to identify signs of
autism in much younger children. Early screening and assessment
by their pediatrician are recommended for all children.
Characteristics of this disability include impairment of social
interaction and communication skills, and usually include
restrictive, repetitive, or unusual patterns of behaviors or
interests, and activities. Some people with autism also have
intellectual disability, while others have normal intelligence.
People with autism can learn if they receive appropriate
structured educational, environmental and family supports.
Intellectual disability is a disability that affects
peoples’ capacity to develop and use intellectual and adaptive
daily living skills. As a result, development and learning are
slower than average, and do not reach the levels of higher order
reasoning that are found in typically developing individuals. The
degree of disability that people can have ranges from mild, to
moderate, severe, or profound.
- People with mild intellectual disability are
generally able to learn many skills, although they learn more
slowly, and they are generally less aware of how to interact
socially. With enough support, they can live on their own as
adults an intellectual disability are mildly disabled.
- People who have moderate intellectual
disability are generally able to learn to care for
themselves with special training and, as adults, can often
develop some independence in their daily living skills, and work
- People who have severe or profound intellectual
disability exhibit more serious deficits in speech,
coordination, and ability to learn, and they frequently have
physical handicaps. Some of these people need constant care and
supervision, but others can learn to perform useful tasks and
many, as adults, can perform some types of work with supervision.
Cerebral palsy is a group of conditions that affect
the brain’s ability to control muscle movement, coordination, and
posture. The term “cerebral” refers to the brain, and “palsy”
refers to impaired control of body movement. The disorder is
caused by failure of the brain to develop properly, or by injury
to the brain (not to the muscles or nerves), before, during, or
Sometimes cerebral palsy shows itself only as a slight
awkwardness of speech or gait. More often, there is a severe loss
of muscle control in more than one area of the body. Some people
with cerebral palsy can do only simple tasks related to self care
and activities of daily living, while others achieve professional
careers and lead independent lives.
Cerebral palsy, or the injury to the brain, is not progressive –
that means it does not get worse. However its effects on the body
and some abilities, such as motor control, weakness of stiffness
of the muscles or joints, and daily living skills, may become
more impaired as the person ages. Although some people with
cerebral palsy also have intellectual disability, most have
The term epilepsy applies to a number of disorders
of the nervous system centered in the brain and is characterized
by recurrent unprovoked seizures (that is, not provoked by fever,
electrolyte imbalance, trauma, etc.).
Seizures are episodes caused by abnormal electrical discharges of
the brain leading to temporary disruption of brain function, and
involve uncontrolled muscle movements, altered consciousness,
mental confusion, change in behavior such as a ‘blank stare’, or
disturbances of bodily functions such as spots before the eyes,
ringing in the ears, dizziness or loss of control of bowel and
The frequency of epileptic symptoms varies widely across
individuals. Some people with epilepsy have many seizures each
day while some can control their condition with medication, diet
or other environmental adaptations, and go for months or even
years without a seizure.
A person may have more than one developmental disability. More
than half of Harbor Regional Center clients have intellectual
disability, and many also have a second developmental disability
– such as epilepsy. People with developmental disabilities also
may have conditions such as heart defects, allergies, and mental
health problems. Some regional center clients have serious
medical conditions in addition to one or more developmental
disabilities. Some of these people depend on technology to
support certain body functions. Examples are clients who require
a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe and people who are
fed through a tube inserted in the stomach.
Harbor Regional Center currently provides services to nearly
15,000 people with developmental disabilities and their families.
Our clients are of all ages and all levels of disability.
Increasingly, the regional center is serving families who are
recent immigrants to this country and speak a language other than
English. We provide services in a culturally appropriate manner,
and provide information in the family’s primary language as much