Physical and Health Disabilities

Michelle Martin

What are Physical and Health Disorders?

Physical and health disabilities arise from different conditions that impact movement or require health care. They arise when the disability impacts students learning and education.

Types of Physical and Health disabilities:


Neuromotor Impairments- conditions caused by damage to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Examples of this are:

Seizure disorders (Epilepsy), Cerebral palsy (CP), Spinal cord disorders (Spina bifida/spinal cord injuries), Muscular dystrophy, Polio, and Multiple sclerosis (MS).

Muscular/Skeletal Conditions- impairments that affect the limbs or muscles.

Examples of this are:

Juvenile arthritis, Limb deficiencies, Skeletal disorders (Dwarfism), Osteogenisis imperfect or brittle bone disease, and Scoliosis.


Chronic Illnesses- a long-lasting condition that can be controlled, but not cured. Examples of this are:

Asthma, Diabetes, Cystic fibrosis, Congenital heart defects, Tuberculosis (TB), Childhood cancer (Leukemia/ Lymphomas), and Blood disorders (Sickle cell anemia/ Hemophilia).

Infectious Diseases- illnesses that can be passed from person-to-person and can be sometimes cured, but not always.

Examples of this are:

Syphilis, Toxoplasmosis, Rubella Cytomegalovirus, Herpes, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), and Hepatitis B.


Only 0.09% of students who have physical disabilities require services and 1.38% of students that have health disabilities. Many conditions do not require a need for special education. Over ½ of physically disabled students attend their local schools and are a part of the regular school day 80% of the time.

Over 60% of students with health disabilities participate in general education more than 80% of the school day. Slightly less than 1% of all students with health impairments have chronic illnesses and their education needs to be delivered to them.

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what its like living with a physical disability: epilepsy

Jenny LaBaw: Living with Epilepsy

what its like living with a health disability: Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle Cell Anemia - Isaac's Story at St. Louis Children's Hospital

Useful strategis in the classroom:

  • Make schedule more flexible

    Extend due dates for complex assignments


    Note takers

    Alternative settings for test taking

    Improve classroom traffic patterns

  • Elevators

    Provide safe and secure place to store AT devices

  • Service animal

  • In depth with technology

    Instructional Technology

    • Skype or teleconference important lectures and class discussions
    • Establish communities of practice
    • Create virtual classrooms

    Technology Applications

    • Substitute word processing for handwriting
    • Permit voice-to-text options

    Assistive Technology

    • Special or adaptive pens
    • Book holders or page turners
      Adapted computer keys

    More information on accommodations

    Useful strategies at home:

    • The use of technology in the classroom can be carried on to the home environment, especially for students with physical and health disabilities who can’t always make it to school because a severe illness.
    • Distance Technology, or accessing general curriculum with technology at home or hospital, can be achieved through…

    Online assignments

    Establishing communities of practice

    Skyping lectures and class discussion

    Creating virtual classrooms (i.e.. Blackboard)

    Benificial websites

    The link below is a great website for parents of children with physical disabilities to visit. It talks about what life is like to be the parent of a child with physical disability and hopefully parents can relate to t and know that they are not alone.
    The link below would be beneficial for parents of health disabled children. It provides information on tools, and tips for raising a child with health impairments.


    The app Grid Player is helpful for people who can not speak or have unclear speech to communicate. With this app you can create sentences that you can play out loud. It has multiple symbols, voices, and pictures that you can use.
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    What is chronic disease? (2011). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from