Community Services

Developmental Disabilities

Introductory Information

The developmental disabilities system offers extensive services through several different programs. Each program has its own requirements for who is eligible and how to enroll. The challenge with this system is the long wait lists to receive services, even when a youth has been found eligible. For this reason, it is important to understand how the system works and get youth set up as early as possible. Here we describe the different programs available for youth in the developmental disabilities system.

The Developmental Disabilities Program (DDP) administers, provides funding and monitors a service system that supports individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. They are located throughout Montana by the DDP Central Office in Helena and Regional Offices.
DDP Services are available at no cost to eligible individuals of any age.  Many kinds of services are offered through providers in communities or self-directed options. This support is separate from other assistance that is provided through schools, Medicaid, insurance, Social Security, etc.
For a more complete guide, visit Guide to Success: Navigating Montana's Developmental Disabilities Program.


A developmental disability is a delay in cognitive or behavioral function compared to others in the person’s age group. In general a youth is eligible for developmental disability services if they have an IQ under 70, though IQ is not the only determining factor. If you suspect a youth may have a developmental disability, the first step is an evaluation and/or IQ testing. It may be helpful to talk to the youth’s doctor and/or school staff about your concerns and what type of testing they can do. You may also contact the Developmental Disabilities Program and/or a local provider. Persons who meet eligibility criteria are entitled to Targeted Case Management or Montana Milestones Part C Early Intervention services.

Eligibility is determined through the Developmental Disabilities Program and is separate from other programs. Receiving assistance from other programs does not affect potential eligibility for services. If a youth has both a developmental disability and mental health issues, parents may be able to get mental health services while on the developmental disabilities wait list.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Birth to age 8

Evaluations are primarily offered to children under the age of six, although school-aged children and adults are also evaluated if special circumstances exist. In most cases, evaluations are provided at no out-of-pocket cost to families, although insurance and Medicaid will be billed to help defray costs. Some insurance policies will cover the cost of an autism spectrum disorder evaluation for children over the age of five.Evaluations are performed by the appropriate combination of Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, and Physical Therapist.

The purpose and type of evaluation is determined by the diagnostic questions and concerns identified at the time of referral. Evaluations are completed to determine eligibility for services, determine delays in development, diagnose a developmental disability, and identify strengths and weaknesses in a child and make recommendations as warranted.

Comprehensive O208 Waiver

Birth to death

The Children’s Waiver is for people who have a developmental disability and intensive medical, behavioral, or developmental needs. Within this program, a customized annual budget covers a comprehensive array of services selected by the family. There are a limited number of openings (slots). Once a youth is in this program, they are eligible to remain in it for their lifetime by transitioning to the adult waiver services. For this reason, wait lists are generally very, very long. If a youth is on a wait list, it is important to keep their information up to date with the Developmental Disabilities Program.

In order for youth to qualify, they need to be evaluated and receive a variety of screenings including IQ testing, autism assessment, and developmental and behavioral assessment. This screening then needs to be signed off on by a medical doctor. Families can contact a local provider to help guide them through this process.

Children’s Autism Waiver (CAW)

15 months to age 8

The Children’s Autism Waiver is for youth who are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and who have qualifying scores on a specific behavior scale. In order for youth to qualify, they need to be evaluated and receive a variety of screenings including IQ testing, autism assessment, and developmental and behavioral assessment. This screening then needs to be signed off on by a medical doctor. Families can contact a local provider to help guide them through this process.

There are a limited number of openings (slots) and families are selected by random lottery. The program provides 3 years of intensive intervention including:

Case management from a Family Support Specialist

Program design and monitoring

Children’s autism training

Adaptive equipment/environmental modifications



Speech, occupational, or physical therapy

If youth have not been selected by age 5, they are taken off the waitlist since they will not be able to receive the full 3 years of intervention.

Contact Information

Organizations/Agencies who specialize in Autism.

Autism Insurance Services

Birth to age 18

By law, most Montana based insurance companies must provide coverage for autism services for children. Children under 9 are covered up to $50,000 per year and children 9-18 are covered up to $20,000 per year. Parents should check with their individual insurance company to find out more about their specific coverage.

Part C Infant and Toddler Early Intervention Program

Birth to age 3

Part C is a free service with no waiting list. Families can access Part C by contacting the Developmental Disabilities Program, a local provider, or a Child Find screening. Part C provides developmental evaluation and screening for all youth. If a youth is at risk, families are eligible for Part C services. Youth do not need to be determined eligible for developmental disabilities services to access Part C. Part C services include:

Assessment and evaluation
Assistive technology
Family training and counseling
Nursing services
Occupational therapy
Physical therapy
Psychological services
Service coordination
Social work
Special instruction
Speech therapy

Family Education and Support (FES)

Birth to age 22

This program offers parent education and coaching, coordination of care, and help with transition and linkage to other services. It generally takes the form of monthly meetings with a case manager. It is generally used for families in need that are not eligible for other developmental disability benefits, or who are transitioning in or out of other programs. It is not as intensive as other programs, and may have a wait list. Families can access FES by contacting a local provider.

Contact Information