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55 Pa. Code § 4210.101a. Clarification of eligibility determinations—statement of policy.

§ 4210.101a. Clarification of eligibility determinations—statement of policy.

 (a)  The essential feature of mental retardation is significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning that is accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety. The onset must occur before the individual’s 22nd birthday.

   (1)  Except as specified in subsection (b)(2), significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning shall be determined by a standardized, individually administered, intelligence test in which the overall full scale IQ score of the test and of the verbal/performance scale IQ scores are at least two standard deviations below the mean taking into consideration the standard error of measurement for the test. The full scale IQ shall be determined by the verbal and performance IQ scores (See Appendix A—DSM IV).

   (2)  Diagnosis of mental retardation is made by using the IQ score, adaptive functioning scores and clinical judgment when necessary. Clinical judgment is defined as reviewing the person’s test scores, social and medical history, overall functional abilities, and any related factors to make an eligibility determination. Clinical judgment is used when test results alone cannot clearly determine eligibility. The factors considered in making an eligibility determination based on clinical judgment shall be decided and documented by a licensed psychologist, a certified school psychologist, a physician or a psychiatrist. In cases when individuals display widely disparate skills or achieve an IQ score close to 70, clinical judgment should be exercised to determine eligibility for mental retardation services.

   (3)  If eligibility cannot be determined through a review of the individual’s record and social history, necessary testing (for example, adaptive functioning) shall be completed by a licensed psychologist, a certified school psychologist, a physician or a psychiatrist. This includes determining the eligibility for an individual who is 22 years of age or older, has never been served in the mental retardation service system and has no prior records of testing. Clinical judgment may be used to determine whether the age of onset of mental retardation occurred prior to the individual’s 22nd birthday.

 (b)  Everyone can be evaluated or assessed.

   (1)  Standard tests with adaptations for the individual’s visual, motor and language impairments are available and valid. Other efforts to adapt the IQ test to the individual’s particular visual, motor and language impairments shall be described and documented.

   (2)  Developmental scales may be used for people who do not or cannot participate in testing. The use of these scales reflects a necessity to use scoring matrices for populations outside the sample used to develop the normative data. They should only be used when no other standard testing technique is available.

 (c)  Genetic conditions and syndromes defined by particular physical features or behaviors such as Klinefelter syndrome are not, by themselves, sufficient to qualify for a mental retardation eligibility determination.

 (d)  The policy for legal and illegal aliens is is as follows:

   (1)  Citizenship is not an eligibility requirement for receipt of mental retardation services and supports in this Commonwealth. The only distinction in this matter is between those who are lawfully in this country (both citizens and aliens) and those who are here unlawfully (illegal aliens).

   (2)  Illegal aliens are not eligible for the Medicaid Program unless an emergency medical condition is present (42 U.S.C.A. §  1396b(v)). Counties are not required to provide mental retardation services for illegal aliens.

 (e)  An individual who is currently eligible for mental retardation services will remain eligible for mental retardation services unless eligibility testing indicates otherwise.

 (f)  An individual moving into this Commonwealth from another location will receive a mental retardation eligibility determination for mental retardation services based on the clarification described in this section.

 (g)  Except for waiver services, appeals from a denial of eligibility follow the county administrative process designed for appeals under 2 Pa.C.S. § §  551—555 and 751—754 (relating to Local Agency Law) and appealing through the courts. The Local Agency Law is a State law governing procedures for appeals of local agency determinations.

 (h)  Fiscal issues, such as access to testing and payment for testing, should be referred to the appropriate Office of Mental Retardation Regional Office for resolution.

Appendix A

 The following information is quoted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) IV:

 ‘‘The essential feature of Mental Retardation is significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning (Criterion A) that is accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety (Criterion B). The onset must occur before age 18 years (Criterion C). Mental Retardation has many different etiologies and may be seen as a final common pathway of various pathological processes that affect the functioning of the central nervous system.

 General intellectual functioning is defined by the intelligence quotient (IQ or IQ-equivalent) obtained by assessment with one or more of the standardized, individually administered intelligence tests (e.g., Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children—Revised, Stanford-Binet, Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children). Significantly subaverage intellectual functioning is defined as an IQ of about 70 or below (approximately 2 standard deviations below the mean). It should be noted that there is a measurement error of approximately 5 points in assessing IQ, although this may vary from instrument to instrument (e.g., Wechsler IQ of 70 is considered to represent a range of 65—75). Thus, it is possible to diagnose Mental Retardation in individuals with IQs between 70 and 75 who exhibit significant deficits in adaptive behavior. Conversely, Mental Retardation would not be diagnosed in an individual with an IQ lower than 70 if there are no significant deficits or impairments in adaptive functioning. The choice of testing instruments and interpretation of results should take into account factors that may limit test performance (e.g., the individual’s socio-cultural background, native language, and associated communicative, motor, and sensory handicaps). When there is significant scatter in the subtest scores, the profile of strengths and weaknesses, rather than the mathematically derived full-scale IQ, may more accurately reflect the person’s learning abilities. When there is a marked discrepancy across verbal and performance scores, averaging to obtain a full-scale IQ can be misleading.

 Impairments in adaptive functioning, rather than a low IQ, are usually the presenting symptoms in individuals with Mental Retardation. Adaptive functioning refers to how effectively individuals cope with common life demands and how well they meet the standards of personal independence expected of someone in their particular age group, socio-cultural background, and community setting. Adaptive functioning may be influenced by various factors, including education, motivation, personality characteristics, social and vocational opportunities, and the mental disorders and general medical conditions that may coexist with Mental Retardation. Problems in adaptation are more likely to improve with remedial efforts than is the cognitive IQ, which tends to remain a more stable attribute.

 It is useful to gather evidence for deficits in adaptive functioning from one or more reliable independent sources (e.g., teacher evaluation and educational, developmental, and medical history). Several scales have also been designed to measure adaptive functioning or behavior (e.g., the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales and the American Association on Mental Retardation Adaptive Behavior Scale). These scales generally provide a clinical cutoff score that is a composite of performance in a number of adaptive skill domains. It should be noted that scores for certain individual domains are not included in some of these instruments and that individual domain scores may vary considerably in reliability. As in the assessment of intellectual functioning, consideration should be given to the suitability of the instruments to the person’s socio-cultural background, education, associated handicaps, motivation, and cooperation. For instance, the presence of significant handicaps invalidates many adaptive scale norms. In addition, behaviors that would normally be considered maladaptive (e.g., dependency, passivity) may be evidence of good adaptation in the context of a particular individual’s life (e.g., in some institutional settings).’’1


 1 Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Copyright 2000 American Psychiatric Association


   The provisions of this §  4210.101a adopted June 14, 2002, effective June 15, 2002, 32 Pa.B. 2895.

Notes of Decisions

   Eligibility for Mental Retardation Services

   Diagnosis of mental retardation should be based on factors other than IQ score to determine eligibility for mental retardation services; clinical judgment is required when necessary, as in the case of nineteen year old child with IQ of 103 but with marked discrepancy across his performance and verbal scores. Lycoming-Clinton v. Department of Public Welfare, 884 A.2d 382, 385 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005).

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