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Students with Physical Disabilities & Other Health Impairments

Students with Physical Disabilities & Other Health Impairments
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  • 0:04 Physical Disabilities
  • 1:25 Health Impairment
  • 2:04 Early Intervention
  • 3:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Students with physical disabilities and other health impairments have unique needs. This lesson will discuss the specifics of life with a physical disability or health impairment and will end with a brief quiz to see what you have learned.

Physical Disabilities

Juan is a fifth grade student with cerebral palsy. He has limited use of his arms and legs and relies on a wheelchair for support. He also struggles with speech. He attends special education classes and is classified as a student with physical disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990, which states that special needs students are entitled to receive a free and appropriate education that is suitable for their unique needs.

Physical disabilities, which are also referred to as orthopedic, neuromotor, or musculoskeletal impairments, are those that prevent normal physical functioning. They occur in just over 1% of special needs students. Examples of physical disabilities include cerebral palsy, a neuromotor disorder resulting from brain injury that impairs movement control, and spina bifida, a neuromotor impairment of the spinal cord that can limit normal movement and cognitive functioning.

Neuromotor issues are caused by damage or deformity of the brain, spinal cord, or nervous system. Orthopedic impairments are those involving the bones or limbs, such as clubfoot or lack of a digit. Musculoskeletal disorders, such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, affect the muscles, tendons, and nerves. All may occur before birth, during birth, or later in life due to injury or illness.

Health Impairment

Kara is a third grade student with severe asthma. She struggles to participate in everyday activities due to her illness and requires special help and monitoring in the classroom. Like Juan, Kara qualifies for special education under IDEA as a student with a health impairment.

Health impairments like Kara's, are diseases, illnesses, or conditions that require special care or attention and may impair normal functioning and learning. They occur in 4% of special needs students. Examples of health impairments include asthma, a narrowing of the airways that makes breathing difficult, and epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures.

Early Intervention

It's likely that the disabilities faced by Juan and Kara were noticed early on in their development. A baby's general health and reflex response are assessed at birth and regularly thereafter, which enables such development issues to be identified early. In such cases, children can benefit from early intervention services. These are assessments, education, and support that can maximize learning and functioning in children with disabilities and may improve their development and quality of life going forward. Early intervention also helps to manage the unique behavioral and psychological challenges faced by individuals living with a disability.

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