Public Agencies Providing Assistance to People with Disabilities

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The agencies described below provide assistance to people with disabilities and their families. Our State Resource Sheets will tell you the names and addresses of these agencies in your state. One of the best resources for finding help for your child with a disability is your local school district (sometimes called Local Education Agency). If your child has already begun school and you think your child needs special services, we suggest that you begin by discussing your concerns with your child's teacher or school principal. If your child is an infant, we suggest that you refer to your State Resource Sheet and contact the office listed for Programs for Children with Disabilities: Ages Birth through 2 Years. If your child is of preschool age, we suggest that you contact the office listed on the State Resource Sheet for Programs for Children with Disabilities: Ages 3 Through 5 Years. Ask for the Child Find Coordinator in your community.


State Education Department

The State Department staff can answer questions about special education and related services in your state. Many states have special manuals explaining the steps to take. Check to see if one is available. State Department officials are responsible for special education and related services programs in their state for preschool, elementary, and secondary age children.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

The state vocational rehabilitation agency provides medical, therapeutic, counseling, education, training, and other services needed to prepare people with disabilities for work. This state agency will provide you with the address of the nearest rehabilitation office where you can discuss issues of eligibility and services with a counselor. The state vocational rehabilitation agency can also refer you to an independent living program in your state. Independent living programs provide services which enable adults with disabilities to live productively as members of their communities. The services might include, but are not limited to, information and referral, peer counseling, workshops, attendant care, and technical assistance.

Office of State Coordinator of Vocational Education for Students with Disabilities

States receiving Federal funds used for vocational education must assure that funding is used in programs which include students with disabilities. This office can tell you how your state funds are being used and provide you with information on current programs.

State Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Agencies

The functions of state mental retardation/developmental disabilities agencies vary from state to state. The general purpose of this office is to plan, administer, and develop standards for state/local mental retardation/developmental disabilities programs provided in state-operated facilities and community-based programs. This office provides information about available services to families, consumers, educators, and other professionals.

State Developmental Disabilities Council

Assisted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Developmental Disabilities, state councils plan and advocate for improvement in services for people with developmental disabilities. In addition, funding is made available for time-limited demonstration and stimulatory grant projects.

State Mental Health Agencies

The functions of state mental health agencies vary from state to state. The general purposes of these offices are to plan, administer, and develop standards for state and local mental health programs such as state hospitals and community health centers. They can provide information to the consumer about mental illness and a resource list of contacts where you can go for help.

Protection and Advocacy Agency and Client Assistance Program

Protection and Advocacy systems are responsible for pursuing legal, administrative, and other remedies to protect the rights of people who have developmentally disabilities or mental illness, regardless of their age. Protection and Advocacy agencies may provide information about health, residential, and social services in your area. Legal assistance is also available. The Client Assistance Program provides assistance to individuals seeking and receiving vocational rehabilitation services. These services, provided under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, include assisting in the pursuit of legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies to insure the protection of the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Programs For Children With Special Health Care Needs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Maternal and Child Health Bureau provides grants to states for direct medical and related services to children with handicapping conditions. Although services will vary from state to state, additional programs may be funded for training, research, special projects, genetic disease testing, and counseling services. For additional information about current grants and programs in your state, contact:

National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health
Georgetown University
Box 571272
Washington, DC 20057
(202) 784-9770 e-mail

University Centers For Excellence In Developmental Disabilities

A national network of programs affiliated with universities and teaching hospitals, the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (formerly called University Affiliated Programs) engage in research, education, and service designed to further independence, productivity, and full community participation of people with developmental disabilities. The centers train professional leaders, individuals with disabilities, and family members in fields such as early intervention and education, health care special education, and innovative housing and employment programs.

You can obtain information about the University Centers, as well as a listing of all the centers, by contacting:

Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 920
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 588-8252

Parent Training and Information Centers

Each state has a parent training and information center or PTI that is funded through our nation's special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). PTIs are a valuable resource for parents. They provide training and information on different disabilities, educational rights under the law, how to work with the schools, where to find resources in your state and community, and much, much more.
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