Home > Uncategorized > DDS IQ score regulations ruled invalid

DDS IQ score regulations ruled invalid

In what has the potential to be a big win for people with intellectual disabilities who have been denied services from the state, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals has invalidated state regulations cutting off eligibility if a person scores above a 70 on an IQ test.
The three-judge appeals court panel overturned a ruling by Superior Court Judge Kimberly S. Budd, which had upheld the regulations, which DDS adopted in 2006.
The case against the regulations was argued by Thomas Frain, an attorney who is also president of COFAR. 
In its July 23 decision, the appeals court ordered DDS to redraft the regulations to conform to a state law that requires the department’s definition of intellectual disability to be based on “clinical authorities” and not solely on an arbitrary IQ score measurement.
The case concerns a woman who scored a 71 on an IQ test when she was 18, and who was subsequently denied services by DDS on that basis.  Frain, who represented the woman, said he believes the appeals court ruling could have far-reaching implications for eligibility for DDS services.   He maintained that since 2006, “the message from DDS has been ‘don’t bother to apply if you score above a 70.'” 
An undetermined number of people have been denied DDS services since 2006 as a result of the absolute cut-off above a 70 IQ score.  Frain said he believes the ruling “could trigger a flood of re-applications for benefits.”
The appeals court ruling has been hailed by a range of advocacy groups for the disabled, including the Disability Law Center and the Arc of Massachusetts.   Those organizations along with COFAR opposed the 2006 regulations before they took effect, arguing that they would give the department wide latitude to deny eligibility to persons who were clearly in need of services.
Frain described his client, who is now 45, as “a very disabled person” who lives with her mother and depends on her for many basic living functions.  The woman’s mother, who is 72, said she has to cook for her daughter, take her to medical appointments, handle her finances, and supervise  her medication. “She doesn’t function as an adult,” she said of her daughter.  
The appeals court ruling stated that there was also evidence the woman “may have placed herself at risk in her dealings with strangers,” and that she has “an ill-defined sense of sexual boundaries.”
The Globe reported that state officials maintain that their evaluation criteria go “far beyond IQ test results” to include how well individuals function in society.  The newspaper said the woman in this case had graduated from high school and had attended Middlesex Community College.
The woman’s mother told me, however, that her daughter graduated from a small parochial school after having been “pushed through” by the administration there, and that she took only a clerical course for people with intellectual disabilities at Middlesex Community College.    

The woman scored 71 on an IQ test at age 18, 69 at age 40, and 71 at age 42.  The appeals court stated that DDS determined that the woman’s score at age 18 was “determinative” and that a standard error of measurement of plus or minus 5 points should not be applied “in view of (the woman’s) education and work history.”   Moreover, DDS determined that it was not necessary to consider the woman’s adaptive functioning because she had scored above the cutoff of score of 70.  
Prior to 2006, DDS regulations stated that determinations of intellectual disability had to be consistent with the clinical authority of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (AAIDD).  The AAIDD definition of intellectual disability does not establish an absolute cut-off at an IQ of 70.
The appeals court ruled that DDS’s prior regulations were consistent with a state law, which defines intellectual disability as something that is “determined by clinical authorities.”  The court stated that the 2006 regulations, however, “fail to describe the clinical authorities upon which the clinical judgments regarding intelligence are made.”
It was not clear whether DDS would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Judicial Court. 
A bill was pending in the Legislature that would tie the definition of intellectual disability in Massachusetts to the AAIDD’s definition.  The measure (H. 4252) was passed by the House in its final formal session of the year on Tuesday night, but was not taken up by the Senate.
The Disability Law Center was planning to try to get the bill through the Senate in an upcoming informal session.
During a hearing on the bill last year, a number of people provided emotional testimony about having been denied DDS services for their children who tested just above the 70 cut-off.   One woman, Linda Boucher, whose son had scored a 75 and who was consequently denied services, said it was as if he was under house arrest. 
“Where do I go? I need help,” Boucher told the lawmakers, her voice cracking with emotion.
Frain said he hopes that the appeals court ruling combined with the pending legislation will ensure that DDS provides services in the near future to intellectually disabled people such as his client and Boucher’s son.
  1. janet marcus
    August 2, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Having had many years of experience with IQ testing, psychological testing and behavioral testing I know that the results of such testing rely very heavily on the expertise of the person doing the testing, whatever their degree may be. The person doing the testing must be very accurate in scoring results but must also test each individual in a manner that will get the most accurate assessment of that person. There are so many variables involved in getting an accurate assessment that it is a pity an IQ test can profoundly affect an individual in a negative manner. An IQ test alone should never constitute a means of determining intellectual capacity. Am delighted there has been enlightment in this area.


  2. Mary Ann Ulevich
    August 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Thank you Atty Frain and this courageous mother and daughter for continuing, and prevailing, in this no doubt arduous and exhausting court case. The DDS policy states the right thing…IQ score as part of a thorough clinical assessment…but clearly the practice has been derailed in the past several years. It is sad that in this state we continue to withhold services from our most vulnerable people. Thanks for keeping us posted on this, David.


  3. ses
    August 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Myself, I’m glad to finally see someone put a stop to DDS being able to just about whatever it wants whenever it wants. Changing DDS regulations without satisfying legislative intent is just one example. I cringe at the thought of how many people suffered by way of being denied services because of these non-compliant regulations.

    Its actually mind boggling. The only reason DDS exists (and the employees have jobs) is to care and provide services to the disabled yet their actions are the exact opposite.

    Can you impeach a commissioner?


  4. Anonymous
    August 4, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I had a IG of seventy when I left Belchertown State School I was then at the age of seventeen years old. The State of MA found me a job washing dishes. The state said I had an IQ of seventeen. I believed that I was restarted. Back then retardrd people did not have the human right that Americans had I could not void,get married,,or have children I believed that I was a retard. I was not retarded enough to avoid service in the army. I was not retarded enought to serve in Vietnam. The army changed my beliefs that I was a retard. Today I still do not have the right to own a gun and yet I carried a machine in Vietnam. If there is an interest in more let me know


  5. Orzechowski Ed
    August 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    This is excellent news. My congratulations to Tom Frain and to his client. Any hard and fast cut-off involving a tenuous measurement like an I.Q. just doesn’t make sense. Individuals with intellectual disabilities or retardation are already marginalized by our society. The absolute 70 I.Q. further marginalized many people who truly need and deserve services. Advocacy Network, a COFAR affiliate, is pleased with this ruling by the Court of Appeals overruling the DDS regulation.


  6. graceaustin1789
    August 7, 2012 at 5:36 am

    As a mother of 4; 2 children of with significant disabilities. I am in the middle of a hearing with DDS regarding my oldest ( now 21) , due to them denying him —
    He had a stroke as a baby. As a result developed epilepsy , neuroendocrine , expressive and developmental aphasia , PDDNOS and yes intellectual impairment–among other things. We had well documented evaluations over the years that indicated the above diagnoses and his intellectual impaired with documented IQ testing of ranging from 56-67 between the ages of 8-19; however because he had higher performance scores at age 4 and has had a need for a seizure medication that can be used for mood stabilization — they are saying he has psychiatric illness; which for him is inaccurate — no matter what my sons numbers or diagnoses indicates what has been clear all along is that he DOES NOT have the ability to function safely or independently ;he needs help with daily hygiene and in all aspects of his functioning all of these things have also been well documented — as well as the need for guardianship to be awarded to me .

    One of the things that distresses me most in dealing with this is that my youngest son had bilateral strokes and severe brain damage and he is not only intellectually impaired he has severe CP, he’s blind , has 100’s of seizures a day , he can’t walk or talk he gets all nutrition through a central line, meds through G/J tube .. ect ect & he requires my 24/7 care due to being Trach and ventilator dependant / life support —

    I know my oldest son needs services from DDS so I will keep on keeping on but you know what –I honestly believe my time could be better spent than fighting something that is well documented through the years — oh and did I mention he received services from DDS/ DMR for many years prior to his adult denial .

    I’m sorry for what Paula and her mom have had to deal with , but I wanna say Thank you for fighting this fight — you fought not only for your daughter & yourself but for all of us — thank you — thank you to your awesome attorney as well for standing up going to bat for all of us !!

    God Bless all the families that face challenges each day– your children and adults are blessings! M.O.M( medically oriented mother )


    • August 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      We wish you the best in your efforts to get DDS services for your son. This really seems to be an egregious case of inappropriate denial of services. We hope that the appeals court ruling on eligibility will have a favorable impact on your case soon.


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