Nurse sitting with boy with Developmental Disability

Developmental Disabilities Nursing

Everything You Need to Know about Developmental Disabilities Nursing

Developmental disabilities nurses — also called special needs nurses — work with patients with mental or developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or other conditions requiring special care and support. They provide care that focuses not just on the patient’s physical health, but mental health as well, enhancing basic skills, communication, socialization, and participation in community life.

Preparation Path

Attain a BSN

Pass the NCLEX and become an RN

Work for two years in the developmental disabilities field

Pass the developmental disabilities certification exam

Typical Tasks

  • Helping patients perform basic daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, etc.
  • Teaching patients to move on their own and gain increased control over their own bodies
  • Assisting with language and communication skills
  • Building patients’ confidence and morale
  • Educating patients’ families about the effects of the disability and ways to assist the patient

Employment Settings

  • Mental health facilities
  • Residential facilities
  • Community programs
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Schools
  • Patients’ homes

Annual Salary Range

$42,000 – $86,000


RN, plus Developmental Disabilities Certification

Education Requirements


Ready to begin your journey to becoming a developmental disabilities nurse?