Physical and Health Disabilities

Written By Ryan Alexander Wyman

Physical Disability Definition

Physical Disabilities are conditions related to a physical deformity or impairment of the skeletal system and associated motor function. Can Include Physical Impairments and Orthopedic Impairments.

Under the Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA), physical disabilities is defined as physical problems with the structure of functioning of an individuals body that are so significant that they impact their academic performance.

Physical Disability Criteria

Physical Disability must meet two criteria:


*Be Severe


*Affect students academic performance adversely


Two Types of Physical Disabilities:

*Neuromotor disabilities include epileptic seizure episodes that involve consistent convulsions or seizures directly caused by abnormal brain injury.


*Neuro-motor disabilities involve conditions caused by severe damage to the central nervous system that directly affects individuals nerves, muscles, and motor functioning.


*Neuromotor Disability Examples: Cerebral Palsy and Polio which both are severe physical conditions limits individuals ability to control motor functioning and can cause paralysis.


*Muscular/Skeletal conditions are physical impairments that cause severe limited functioning in the muscles, limbs, and bones.


*Muscular/ Skeletal conditions examples include Juvenile Arthritis, skeletal disorder of dwarfism, and scoliosis which all can cause swelling, immobility in an individual's body as well as limit mobility.

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Health Disability Definition

Health disabilities are chronic health impairments in individuals resulting in limited strength, vitality, and alertness that negatively affects a students academic performance as a direct result.

Examples: Asthma, Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, Congenital Heart Defects, Tuberculosis

According to the federal government classification of health disabilities under Individuals Disability Education Act (IDEA), students with chronic health disabilities possess a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli due to their illness which results in a severely limited awareness and comprehension of the academic curriculum and classroom environment. As a direct result of this occurrence, students with health disabilities have their educational performance negatively affected which requires them to need academic accommodations in order to succeed and aid in their learning.

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Types of Health Disabilities: Chronic Illnesses

Chronic Illnesses: Severe health impairments that last for an extended period of time (at least three months or longer) and causes high levels of sickness and pain to the affected individuals.

Types of Chronic Illnesses:

*Asthma which involves severe difficulty in breathing and constant coughing due to inflammation of the airways and asthma can also be caused by breathing in allergy causing substances.

*Diabetes which is a lifetime condition involving excessive amounts of sugar being in individuals bloodstream due to the pancreas being unable to produce enough insulin.

*Diabetes can result in blurred vision, excessive thirst, severe fatigue, frequent urination, and hunger.

*Type 1 Diabetes is most common in young children and is typically caused by genetics, viruses, or autoimmune difficulties.

*Type 2 Diabetes is usually most common in young adults and is caused by obesity and lack of exercise.

*As a means of effectively treating diabetes, individuals afflicted with the chronic illness are required to take daily blood tests, insulin shots, monitor food intake, and increase exercise.

*Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic birth defect that causes chronic lung infections, respiratory difficulties, digestive conflicts, and frequent episodes of pneumonia. Cystic Fibrosis is a life threatening condition that is the most prevalent severe lung condition in children and young adults.

Meet Addy, Cystic Fibrosis Patient

Types of Health Disabilities: Infectious Diseases

*Infectious Diseases are severe health impairments caused by pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria or parasites that infect individuals and these infectious diseases are spread directly or indirectly from one person to another through the exchange of bodily fluids.

*Types of Infectious Diseases:

*S.T.O.R.C.H. (Syphilis, Toxoplasmosis, Other, Rubella Cytomegalovirus, and Herpes) :

A group of severe congenital infections that can cause a wide range of health impairments that negatively affect individuals and is typically caused by infectious diseases of a pregnant mother being passed onto newborn infants. These infectious diseases can cause brutal illnesses for newborn infants if not promptly medically treated.

*HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (autoimmune deficiency virus) are extremely harmful as well as potentially life-threatening infectious diseases that results in severe damage to the immune system and directly interferes with the body's ability to fight off the organisms that cause disease or sickness.

*HIV and AIDS is a sexually transmitted infection that be acquired through the transference of bodily and sexual fluids. HIV/AIDS can also be caused as a result of risks adolescent behavior such as unprotected sexual activity and sharing of needles.

*HIV/AIDS can be spread by infected mothers passing virus to infants through direct contact.

*In order to help treat HIV/AIDS patients, substantial medical care and management practices are utilized and academic classrooms containing students with HIV/AIDS require sanitary procedures in order to protect the disease-afflicted and non-disease afflicted students in the classroom.

*Hepatitis B: An infectious viral disease that involves inflammation of the liver and generally caused by infected blood, sexual transmission, and unclean needles.

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Infection protection for students and Teachers in the classroom

Prevalence Rates of Individuals with Physical and Health disabilities

*Only 0.09% of students that receive special education services have physical disabilities.

*About 1.38% of students that receive special education services have health disabilities.

*Over half of all students with physical disabilities attend their local neighborhood schools and participate in general education classes over 80% of the school day.

*More than 60% of students with health disabilities actively engage in inclusive education classes over 80% of the school day.

*Approximately 11% of all U.S. students receive special education services and accommodations.

*Physical and Health disabilities are considered incidence disabilities because only a small percentage of students with physical and health disabilities receive special education services in the classroom.

* Prevalence of students with physical and health disabilities is low because there are no national or state centered registries that are stored for specific health or physical disabilities, the chance of double-counting students is high due to some students having multiple health and physical conditions, and a large amount of certain health and physical disabilities do not require the immediate need for special educations services.

*Less than 1% of all students with health disabilities possess severe chronic illnesses that they need to receive their education at home or in hospitals.

*About 7-10% of students have asthma which is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in U.S. schools.

*Approximately 0.26% of students possess type 1 diabetes and school staff (teachers and nurses) usually assist with diabetes management of health disabled students needs by administering insulin, checking blood glucose, and selecting appropriate foods.