Significant Developmental Delay (SDD) - Policy Brief

Identification of Children with Significant Developmental Delays (SDD) in Wisconsin


Introduction

In 1991, P.L. 102-119, an amendment to Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allowed states, at their option, to incorporate an additional disability category for children ages 3 through 5 years who experience developmental delays.(1). This category is referred to as Significant Developmental Delay in Wisconsin. The more widely used and accepted term is Developmental Delay. In 1997, another amendment to IDEA, P.L. 105-17 expanded the options that states have for identifying young children with disabilities by charging states with defining developmental delay, the age range to which it applies and the diagnostic instruments and procedures used in determining delays in developmental areas. (2) States were given the option of extending the age range to include children experiencing developmental delay, from 3 through 9 years, or a subset of this age group.

What is Wisconsin’s current definition and age range for the category Significant Developmental Delay (SDD)?

On February 1, 1997, the final rule, s. PI 11.35(2)(L) of the Wisconsin. Administrative Code, defining significant developmental delay became effective. Wisconsin’s definition is “Significant developmental delay means children, ages 3, 4, and 5 years of age or below compulsory school attendance age, who are experiencing significant delays in the areas of physical, cognition, and communication, social-emotional or adaptive development.” (3) Currently, the category SDD in Wisconsin can only be used up age 6.

Is there a recommended age range for use of Developmental Delay as a category?

The Council for Exceptional Children-Division for Early Childhood (DEC) recommends that “a developmental delay category of eligibility be available for all children from birth through age eight.” One major reason often cited in support of extending the age range is to minimize miscategorization that can result from inaccurate or inappropriate assessment given that many of the standardized and norm-referenced assessment tools for young children have limited reliability (4). The four considerations that DEC offers in support of including the developmental delay category as an option from birth through age eight are:

  1. The developmental period characterized as early childhood is generally considered ages birth through 8 and is best described by developmental measures rather than assessment tools with a more educational or academic focus.
  2. Standardized and norm-referenced assessment tools used with young children to identify diagnostic categories may result in incorrect categorization of some children.
  3. Early educational experiences form a crucial foundation for learning. For children who have had limited formal educational opportunities prior to kindergarten, categorical classification may be premature and potentially inaccurate.
  4. Informed team decisions utilizing professional judgments and family input should play major roles in eligibility determinations. (5)

There are a few states that have expanded the age range for use of the developmental delay category up to age 8 or 9 but limited the initial assignment of the developmental delay category to age 6. (6) This is an option Wisconsin is now considering.

Are there any negative implications associated with extending the age range for SDD through age 9?

One major concern associated with extending the SDD age range is that it could potentially expand the population of children served under IDEA and as a result increase the cost of providing service (7). National trend data from 1997 - 2003 for school aged children (6-9 year olds) shows a steady increase in Developmental Delay prevalence rates (8). However, from 2004-2007 the national trend data for Developmental Delay prevalence rates for each of the five racial/ethnic categories for the school aged population have remained fairly constant. (9) Wisconsin trend data for both time periods reflects similar patterns of an initial increases from 1997- 2003 and fairly constant rates from 2004-2007 for both preschool aged (3-5 year olds) and school aged (6-9 year olds).(10)

In pilot studies conducted in states that have extended the age range it was determined that though there was a small increase in the number of children identified initially children were just being identified at younger ages than they otherwise would have been. The expectation was that over time the impact would be minimal (11). National trend data from 2004 – 2007 lends support to this prediction.

Wisconsin has recently identified an additional concern. Our state trend data from 2002-2007 shows evidence of over representation of American Indian and African American children in the SDD category. (12) This data warrants further analysis and consideration must be given to whether expanding the age range in the category of SDD could potentially result in more pronounced discrepancies (over representation) for American Indian and African American children. A related concern with cultural implications for the developmental delay category is the importance of having more culturally responsive early childhood assessment practices and assessment tools. Equally as important is for practioners to have an understanding of and the ability to take into account cultural differences and variations of the children being assessed (13).

What are the age ranges used for the category Significant Developmental Delay/Developmental Delay in other states?

According to the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center 23 states have extended the age range for Developmental Delay beyond age 5. Of these 23 states 9 states utilize the full age range through age 9 as federally allowed. Wisconsin is one of 2 states with a proposed rule change that would increase the upper age range for SDD. (14)

What is the current status of Wisconsin’s efforts to extend the age range for SDD through age 8?

For several years Wisconsin has been considering the possibility of extending the age range for SDD from the current age range of 3 through 5 to 3 through age 8. From 2003-2005, The Significant Developmental Delay (SDD) Category in Wisconsin Feasibility Study: Extending the Age Range was conducted and concluded with recommendations to extend the age range for SDD through age 8 (15). The study was followed by public hearings to consider changes in the eligibility criteria for SDD during September and October of 2007. Comments have been summarized and support extending the age range through age 8. These comments and recommendations have been disseminated but to date statutory changes have not been made and the current rule and guidance remains in effect.

Summary

Wisconsin continues to explore and analyze all aspects of expanding the age range for the category of Significant Developmental Delay from the current age of 3 through 5 to age 3 through 8. Additional information and data are being reviewed and analyzed. This process will result in recommendations and an update to the 2005 Feasibility Study. A summary and recommendations will be generated based on all additional information including a review of current developmental delay policies, recommended practices and analysis of longitudinal state and national data disaggregated by race. The projected timeline for this update is the 2009-2010 school year.

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1. U. S. Department of Education (1991). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments and Reauthorization of IDEA 1991 Public Law 102-119. Washington, D.C: Author.
2. U. S Department of Education (1997). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 Public Law 105-17. Washington, D.C.: Author.
3. Wisconsin Administrative Code and Register (2004), PI 11.36 (11), Areas of impairment, Significant Developmental Delay. http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/code.htm.
4. DEC Concept Paper (2009). Developmental Delay as an Eligibility Category. Council for Exceptional Education Division for Early Childhood. http://www.decsped.org/uploads/docs/about_dec/position_concept_papers/Co....
5. DEC Concept paper (2009).
6. DEC Concept paper (2009).
7. Danaher, J. (2007). Eligibility policies and practices for young children under Part B of IDEA (NECTAC Notes No.24). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute, National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. http://www.nectac.org/~pdfs/pubs/nnotes24.pdf.
7. Danielson, L. (2001). Opening Remarks. Proceedings of developmental delay: A review of the research and future directions. Project FORUM, National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Alexandria, VA.
7. Linehan, P. (2001). Proceedings of developmental delay: A review of the research and future directions. Project FORUM, National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Alexandria, VA.
8. U. S. Department of Education (2003). 25th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.
  8. U. S. Department of Education (2003). 25th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.
9. U. S. Department of Education (2002, 2003,2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System(DANS). Part B Data & Notes IDEA 618 Data Tables Child Count. https://www.ideadata.org/PartBData.asp.
10. U. S. Department of Education (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007).
10. U. S. Department of Education (2004). 26th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.
11. DEC Concept Paper (2009).
12. U. S. Department of Education (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007).
13. Valdivia, R. (1999). The Implications of Culture on Developmental Delay. ERIC Digest E590. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Reston VA. http://ericdigests.org/2000-4/delay.htm.
13. Beridon, V. (2001). A state director's perspective. Proceedings of developmentat delay: A review of research and future directions. (Available from Project FORUM, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 320, King Street Station 1, Alexandria VA 22314.
14. Danaher, J. (2007). Eligibility policies and practices for young children under Part B of IDEA (NECTAC Notes No.24). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute, National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. Retrieved 9/29/09 from http://www.nectac.org/-pdfs/pubs/notes24.pdf.
15. Wright, A., Gibbs, B. (2005). Significant Developmental Delay (SDD) Category in Wisconsin Feasibility Study: Extending the Age Range. Retrieved 9/29/09 from http://sped.dpi.wi.gov/sped_sdd.