People We Serve

People We Serve


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 County.

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 disability, 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 section.

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 disability.

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

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 with supervision.
  • 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

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 after birth.

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 normal intelligence.


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 bladder.

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 as possible.


Faces, Patterns, Possibilities

In this section, you’ll learn about the patterns of these developmental disabilities, what each one is, and what it isn’t - as well as the causes, interventions, and the human possibilities.

Select from the Videos links on this page to learn the personal stories of individuals with developmental disabilities of all ages.