Physical and Health Disabilities

Marissa Raimond

Definition of Physical Disabilities

A physical disability also known as orthopedic impairments is defined under IDEA as problems with the structure of the body or the functioning of someone's body.
TALK TO ME | Physical Disability Awareness

Defintion of Health Disability

IDEA defines health disabilities as health impairments or conditions or diseases that create special health care needs.

Types of Physical Disabilities

    • Neuromotor Impairments

    • Cerebral Palsy

      • Spina Bifida

      • Spinal Cord Injury

      • Epilepsy

    • Muscular/Skeletal Conditions

      • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

      • Brittle Bone Disease

      • Amputation/limb deficiencies

      • Scoliosis

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Characteristics of Physical Disabilities

    • Paralysis

    • Low/altered muscle tone

    • Unsteady gait

    • Loss/inability to use one or more limbs

    • Difficulty with gross-motor skills (Ex: walking, running)

    • Difficulty with fine-motor skills (Ex: writing, buttoning a shirt)

Types of Health Disabilities

  • Chronic Illnesses

    • Cystic Fibrosis

    • Juvenile Diabetes

    • Childhood Cancer

    • Asthma

    • Congenital Heart Defects

    • Tuberculosis

  • Infectious Diseases

    • HIV/AIDS

    • Hepatitis B

Characteristics of Health Disabilities

    • Fatigue

    • Mobility problems

    • Inattention

    • Coordination difficulties

    • Muscle weakness

    • Reduced stamina


    • Physical and Health Disabilities are considered low incidence disabilities

    • Physical Disabilities: 0.09% require special services

    • Health Disabilities: 1.38% require special services

    • ADHD is included in this category! ADHD is responsible for the dramatic yearly increase in the size of the health disabilities category.

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Teaching Accommodations

For difficulty with gross motor skills such as walking teachers can:

-move objects out of the way of the student

-provide a motorized wheelchair

-adjust tables, desks, and other furniture

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Home Accommodations

    • Push furniture out of the way and secure any loose objects (ex: rugs)

    • Install ramps or elevators. This makes it easier for motorized wheelchairs to move around the house.

    • Create a schedule of when medication should be taken. This way, important medications will never be missed.

    • Have a PT, OT, or Speech Pathologist come to the home. This will help the child with motor skills or language skills.

    • Schedule time to do homework/chores when the child is less fatigued

Additional Resources for Parents and Teachers


Big Magnify Free App

This app turns your device into a magnifying glass. Read tiny print and look at small objects.

iHear Dialer App

iHear Dialer allows you to dial phone numbers without looking at the keypad. As you move your hand around on the keypad, the dialer will tell you what number your finger is on and when you want that number, just release your finger.


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The DRM WebWatcher: Just for Parents (and Service Providers). (2014). Retrieved May 3, 2015, from

Bennett, K. S., & Hay, D. A. (2007). The Role of Family in the Development of Social Skills in Children with Physical Disabilities. International Journal Of Disability, Development And Education, 54(4), 381-397.

Comprehensive overview of other health impairments. (2007). Retrieved from National Association of Special Education Teachers:

Heller, K. W., & Swinehart-Jones, D. (2003). Supporting the Educational Needs of Students with Orthopedic Impairments. Physical Disabilities: Education And Related Services, 22(1), 3-24.

Kendall, R. M. (1991). Unique Educational Needs of Learners with Physical and Other Health Impairments.

Milota, C., PACER Center, I. M., & And, O. (1991). Count Me In: Resource Manual on Disabilities.

Physical disability. (2015, April 10). Retrieved from Department of Education and Early Childhood Development:

Other health impairments. (2014, May). Retrieved from Center for Parent Information and Resources:

Smith, D. D., & Tyler, N. C. (2014). Introduction to contemporary special education new horizons. Pearson Education.

Venn, J., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, R. V. (1989). Students with Physical Disabilities and Health Impairments. Revised. ERIC Digest #459.