Getting services through DDS

DDS is the Department of Developmental Services.

This is the state office that offers services to children with developmental disabilities and their families.

The DDS eligibility rules changed in 2014. Students with autism should now qualify, even if they do not seem to have a developmental disability. 

  • The DDS services are to help families care for their child at home, and take part in community activities.

  • You can also get therapy and other services for children with autism.

  • They serve children and adults. You can apply at any age. But if your child has significant needs, it's much better if you apply before they turn 22. Then they will have support throughout their life.

  • There is a process of applying. Once you have applied and your child is registered, you can get the services as long as they still qualify. Once they turn 18, they will have to re-apply for adult services.

Here's what you can do:

  • Find your nearest Autism Support Center or DDS Family Support Center. (Click on each title to open the listing in a new tab.)

  • Call them and ask what services you can get for your child with autism if they qualify for DDS services. They can also help you with the application process.

  • Apply for DDS services. 

Click the boxes below to learn more. 

A person has to be a Massachusetts resident and have a documented Developmental Disability.

This is any condition that limits someone's ability to take care of themselves, starts when they are young and will probably affect them for their whole life.

It can be physical (like being blind) or intellectual. Intellectual or cognitive refers to how someone's mind works. If you have trouble thinking, learning and communicating in a typical way, these are cognitive or intellectual limitations.

Many people with Autism Spectrum Disorders fit into this category.

Here is the DDS definition of developmental disability: For persons who are five years of age or older, a severe, chronic disability that:

  1. is attributable to a mental or physical impairment resulting from Intellectual DisabilityAutism Spectrum DisorderSmith-Magenis Syndrome, or Prader-Willi Syndrome

  2. is manifested before the individual attains 22 years of age

  3. is likely to continue indefinitely

  4. results in substantial functional limitations

There are 4 regions of DDS in Massachusetts. Each one has a Regional Eligibility Team, who will be in charge of your application.

To apply for DDS services:

  1. Call your nearest DDS Office. Use this DDS Area Locator to find one near you. (Click on the underlined part to open this web page in a new window.)

  2. Tell them you want to apply for DDS services, and ask them which application to use.

  3. Click the links at the bottom of the page to download a PDF copy of the application you need.

The application will ask you for records that prove that your child has a developmental or intellectual disability, autism or another related condition.

  • You should include medical test results and diagnoses, educational assessments, a copy of your IEP or 504 plan, and any other information you have.

  • You don't have to get the actual medical records. They'll ask you to sign a release form so they can get them from your child's doctors.

What to expect:

  • You will get a call from a Regional Eligibility Team member.

  • They will schedule a meeting with you to go over your application.

  • They will make a decision within 60 days to see if your child qualifies.

  • They will assign a coordinator to help you with your services.

Note: If your child is over 18, they will need to sign the form unless you have permission through the guardianship process. (See our Guardianship Guide to learn more about this process and other options for helping your adult child with decision-making.)

For more information, call your local DDS office.   (Click to open in a new tab on your screen.)


Sources: EOHHS, MA DDS

Learn more:

Go to these links to see pages from the DDS website. (They will open in new tabs.)