Alphabet soup – Acronyms in the Developmental Disability Community

March 8, 2018
Alphabet soup – Acronyms in the Developmental Disability Community

Understanding the language of the developmental disability service system

The use of the primary letters, in the often lengthy terms and titles that comprise the vocabulary of the developmental disability service system, has almost become a language of its own.  Learning to speak and understand this language is critical to functioning within the system.  Developmental disability community members who spend their days repeatedly using this shorthand form of communication often forget that not everyone “speaks” their language.  It can especially represent a barrier for families who do not use these terms on a routine basis or who are trying to learn and navigate the system.  At the end of a recent presentation to families by a state agency, a mother stood up and said, “You’ve used all of these letters – DDD, DDS, PPP, PPL, ISP, DSP – what do they all mean?”  The presenters had lost a critical opportunity to educate this family member about services, because like many of us, they had forgotten that not everyone speaks the acronym-laced language of the developmental disability community.

If you’ve ever wondered what some of those letters mean or you need a “cheat sheet” for that next meeting or conversation, here is a list that should be helpful:

Describing an individual’s disability:

DD – Developmental Disability

ID  – Intellectual Disability

I/DD – Intellectual/Developmental Disability

CP – Cerebral Palsy

ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder

New Jersey sources of services and supports:

DHS– Department of Human Services

DHS Divisions:

DDD – Division of Developmental Disabilities

Acronyms frequently used by DDD:

HCBS   Home and Community Based Services

SP – Supports Program

CCP – Community Care Program

SC – Support Coordinator

SD – Self-Directed

FFS – Fee for Service

ISP – Individualized Service Plan

Formerly used plan types:

ELP – Essential Lifestyle Plan

IHP – Individual Habilitation Plan

DDS – Division of Disability Services

Administered by DDS:

PPP- Personal Preference Program

PASP  – Personal Assistance Services Program

DVRS – Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services

DCF – Department of Children and Families

CSOC – Division of Children’s System of Care

ASO – Administrative Service Organization (PerformCare under DCF-CSOC)

Federal income sources:

SSI  Supplemental Security Income

DAC  Disabled Adult child

For school age children:

IEP – Individual Education Plan

IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

LRE – Least Restrictive Environment

PRISE – Parental Rights in Special Education

Advocacy organizations:

DRNJ – Disability Rights NJ

NJCDD – NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities

FSCNJ – Family Support Coalition of New Jersey or Family Support Center of New Jersey

SPAN – Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (under 21)

For adults living in the community:

SHC – Supportive Housing Corporation

DCA – Department of Community Affairs

SRAP – State Rental Assistance Program

SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps)

USF – Universal Service Fund (utility assistance)

LIHEAP – Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (heating and cooling assistance)


DSP – Direct Support Professional (formerly caregiver, support staff, etc.)

PPL – Public Partnerships Limited (Fiscal Intermediary for DHS)

MCO – Managed Care Organization

ADL – Activities of Daily Living

This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are new acronyms popping up seemingly every day.  As we attempt to navigate complicated systems and act as advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities, it is important that we all speak the same language.  It can definitely be a challenge to remember what all those letters represent, but it is imperative to know their meaning in order to assure appropriate outcomes and opportunities within the developmental disability community.