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Special Education

Technical Assistance Advisory SPED 2021-2

Students with Autism and Application for Department of Developmental Services Adult Eligibility

To:Administrators of Special Education, Special Educators, Parents, Students, and Other Interested Parties
From:Russell Johnston, State Director of Special Education
Date:March 23, 2021


This advisory has been developed jointly with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to inform families and provide them with information. This advisory clarifies that districts and schools should encourage families whose children have Autism to apply for DDS adult eligibility by the time the student is 17 ½ years of age, in accordance with DDS's recommended practice.


DDS provides supports to some children and adults who have Autism. Although DDS has provided supports to children with Autism for a number of years, Chapter 226 of the Acts of 2014, known as the Autism Omnibus Bill, expanded DDS adult eligibility to many people with Autism. Before the passage of this legislation, DDS adult eligibility was limited only to individuals with intellectual disabilities.1

Key Information to Share with Families

  • Families should apply on the student's behalf for adult DDS eligibility by the time the student is 17 ½ years old, to provide planning time for adult services.

  • To be considered for adult services, families must complete an application for adult eligibility, even if the student is eligible to receive DDS children's services.

  • Families should submit these completed application forms to the DDS Regional Eligibility Team responsible for the town in which they live.

  • Some adults with Autism might not meet eligibility criteria for DDS services.

  • Individuals may be eligible for adult DDS Autism services if they:

    1. are domiciled in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;

    2. have a severe, chronic disability that is attributable to mental or physical impairment resulting from Autism that manifested before age 22;

    3. have substantial functional impairment in three or more areas of these major life activities:

      1. self-care

      2. receptive and expressive language

      3. learning

      4. mobility

      5. self-direction

      6. capacity for independent living

      7. economic self-sufficiency

    4. are not eligible for DDS adult intellectual disability services.

      See G.L. c. 123B, §1; 115 CMR 6.04(2)

  • Individuals who are determined to be eligible will receive DDS supports through their local DDS area office. A DDS transition services coordinator will help with planning.

  • DDS supports will be provided based on funding availability. Unlike special education services, they are not an entitlement.

  • DDS supports are individualized and planned using a person-centered approach.

  • Application for DDS adult eligibility is separate and distinct from the Chapter 688 process. It is essential that schools and families understand that a Chapter 688 referral is not an application for DDS adult eligibility. School districts submit Chapter 688 referrals with permission from families; families must submit applications to DDS to be considered for adult eligibility.

Additional Resources

For additional information and support, please click on the following links:

1 G.L. c.123B, §1

Last Updated: March 23, 2021

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