Accessing Developmental Disability Waiver Services in Illinois

The process for obtaining developmental disability waiver services can be confusing and frustrating. It is our hope that the following information will help guide you through the process and take you one step closer to attaining the services you and/or your family need.

The first step to accessing Developmental Disability (DD) Waiver services in Illinois is to sign up for the Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS). PUNS is the database that registers individuals who seek or may have a future need for DD Waiver services (i.e. community integrated living arrangements, home based supports, child group homes, etc.) funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). As funding is available, individuals are then selected from PUNS and invited to apply for DD Waiver services. 

In the fall of 2019, the DHS Division of Developmental Disabilities revised the PUNS guidelines. The revised PUNS categories, criteria, forms and instructions for completing the form now reflect a more streamlined approach to the process. These changes were necessary to reduce confusion, increase transparency and make the selection process more predictable for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. These new guidelines have been in effect since January 1, 2021.

Updated information and guidance about PUNS and the process for getting services is available on the DHS website.

One important change in the guidelines is that there are now just two PUNS categories: “Seeking Services” and “Planning for Services.” You must be enrolled in the correct category, so it is important to review which individuals are included in each category. For example, adults must be listed in the “Seeking Services” category to accumulate the necessary wait time, which is currently five years or more. This is significant, because PUNS selections are no longer made by selecting several people from each category. Instead, PUNS selections are made based on an individual's length of time in the “Seeking Services” category. This means that those who have been on the list the longest, in the “Seeking Services” category, will be selected first. Unfortunately, time spent on the list while under the age of 18 does not count towards the wait for Adult DD Waiver Services.

For more information about applying for DD Waiver services in Illinois, please refer to the Illinois DHS website. The Autism Speaks Autism Response Team (ART) is also always happy to take your questions by phone, email or online chat.

Contact our Autism Response Team for personalized assistance at or 1-888-288-4762 (En Español: 1-888-772-9050).