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Quick link to the information of your choice on Physical Disability:
What is a Physical Disability?
Physical disability is the general term applied to a group of disabling symptoms that means the inability to physically move effectively or the severe physical impairment of control over voluntary muscles because of paralysis, deformity, loss or other impairments as a result from birth defects, disease, genetics or accidents which may include one or more of the following:
The individualís ability to function independently in the family or community or whose ability to obtain, maintain, or advance in employment is substantially limited.
- Amputation or limb loss,
- Birth injury,
- Burn injury,
- Brain injury,
- Heart disease, respitory or pulmonary dysfunction
- Musculo-skeletal disorders,
- Neurological disorders (Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, also including stroke and Epilepsy)
- Other movement disorders (Cerebral Palsy, Parkinsonís, Huntington's, Multiple System Atrophy, Rett Syndrome, Tourettes Syndrome),
- Short stature,
- Spina Bifida,
- Spinal cord conditions (hemiplegia, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and others),
- Another disability or combination of disabilities determined to cause which seriously limits one or more functional capacities of mobility or movement in the use of legs, arms, or the body trunk effectively in terms of a communication, learning, self direction, independent living or employment outcome.
The most common physical disabilities are cerebral palsy, spina bifida, amputation, and spinal cord injury. Deafness and blindness are also considered physical disabilities, though ones physical mobility and movement may or may not be affected, they are considered physical impairments.
What are the causes of a Physical Disibility?
- Birth defects
- Birth injury
- Burn injury
- Brain injury
- Injury (can also occur from illnesses or head injury)
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Neurological Disorders
- Movement Disorders
- Short Stature
What are the characteristics of Physical Disibilities?
- Wide ranges of types and severities:
In the case of physical extremities:
- Hemiplegia - one side of impairment -arm and leg.
- Diplegia -parts of both sides impaired - four limbs, legs affected more.
- Quadriplegia - all four extremities.
- Parpalegia - two limbs different sides.
- There may be a loss of control of voluntary muscles.
- In the case of brain injury, the part of the brain injured/damaged decides what disabilities occur.
- Slight awkwardness of movement or hand control. At its most severe,virtually no muscle control, profoundly affecting movement and speech. Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, one or more of the following may occur: (1) muscle tightness or spasms (2) involuntary movement (3) difficulty with "gross motor skills" such as walking or running (4) difficulty with "fine motor skills" such as writing or doing up buttons (5) difficulty in perception and sensation" From the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy (link is no longer availible)
- Physical disability can seriously limit one or more functional capacities of mobility or movement in the use of legs, arms, or the body trunk effectively and/or speech, vision, epilepsy, gait, balance, coordination, hearing and sensation.
- Severe cases require assistance in daily activities: feeding, dressing, bathing and toileting.
- Areas of the brain which define a persons intelligence may or may not be affected by physical disability. If however, there has also been additional trauma to the areas of the brain that affect cognitive development, then cognitive ability may be impaired in addition to the physical disability
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Physical disability can accompany multiple disabilities as listed above. The complexity of the consequences makes physical disability a complicated disability. The following are just some of the complications that may or may not exist along with the physical disability
- Injuries from falls
- Reduced mobility
- Reduced communication skills
- Social stigmatization
People are more alike than they are different.
- Identify and develop an appreciation for each persons strengths and accomplishments.
- Become aware of the affect on daily activities.
- People First Language from disabilityisnatural.com by Kathie Snow offers insight into society's use of language when using the term disability. The term disability is a societal construct to identify characteristics related to a medical condition that may entitle an individual for services or legal protections. The use of this language encourages freedom, respect and inclusion for all, and recognizes forms of language that can isolate, create negative stereotypes and place attitudinal barriers for individuals. "Using People First Language, putting the person before the disability—and eliminating old, prejudicial, and hurtful descriptors, can move us in a new direction. People First Language is not political correctness; instead, it demonstrates good manners, respect, the Golden Rule, and more—it can change the way we see a person, and it can change the way a person sees themself!" For more articles by Kathie Snow to "help us begin to use more respectful and accurate language and create positive change," visit People First Language and More
- There is no correlation between physical disability and aptitude. People with physical disabilities may lead normal lives.
- Although one may have an impairment, one may not have a disability (have difficulty performing a daily living task) or may not be handicapped (because of disability, unable to achieve normal role in society).
- People with physical disability experience social stigma associated with their apparent physical difference (if noticable) or their movement.
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Visit our NHU Community Forum on Physical Disability for more insights, awareness, viewpoints, experiences, needs and solutions.
Needs and Solutions
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- As a parent, call your health care provider if symptoms of physical disability develop in your newly born child, especially if you know that an injury occurred during birth or early infancy.
Therapy is centered on achieving increased independence for the person at home, school and in the community:
- Treatment is guided by the symptoms exhibited and may include physical therapy, braces, appropriate glasses and hearing aids, medications, special education or appropriate schooling, and, in severe cases, long-term care may be required.
- Augmentative communication and the use of a computer for communication and school work.
- Occupational Therapy improves hand function, perceptual motor skills and other activities of daily living. Appropriate adaptive devices.
- Splinting needs, positioning equipment and home modifications.
- Physical Therapy evaluation of motor development, functional mobility, and appropriate equipment; developmental stimulation; gait/mobility training; immediate post-operative management, family education and theraputic pool facilities.
- Crutches, walker, braces, arm slings, seating or wheelchairs.
- Feeding and swallowing disorders.
- Speech and audiological therapy.
- Assessment of physical symptoms.
- Orthotics makes braces based on the individual person's needs.
- Rehabilitation Services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and neuropsychology, for people who require this level of care as well as exercise, hygiene, education, training, and vocational rehabilitation.
- If you have not been evaluated for using adaptive computer technology, the Tech Act Center in your state may be a good place to start. The RESNA TA Project provides information to individuals and programs about adaptive technology devices. To find the location in your state, contact the RESNA TA Project, 1101 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 7000, Washington DC 20036, phone (202) 857-1140 or fax (202)223-4579.
- Mainstreaming in regular schools is advised unless physical disabilities or mental development makes this impossible. Glasses, hearing aids, or other equipment must be designed specifically for the particular disabilities and may assist with communication and learning. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, orthopedic intervention, or other treatments may be appropriate.
- The majority of people with physical disabilities will run into healthcare or residence issues at some point in their lifetime, whether during their youth or in their adult years. Though every case is different, it's best to be aware of any possible issues that may arise and plan accordingly.
- Adequate prenatal care may reduce the risk of some rare causes of birth defects.
- Pregnant mothers with various medical conditions may need to be followed in a high risk prenatal clinic.
Learn More About Physical Disability
National Center on Physical Activity & Disability (NCPAD) offers a very comprehensive listing of disabilities and every aspect of physical activity related to that disability.
They also offer a guide Physical Activity Guidelines for People with Disabilities
Disability and Rehabilitation Handbook, by Goldenson, Robert, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, 1978.
Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy What is Cerebral Palsy? (Link is no longer available)
Tutorial for Cerebral Palsy (Link is no longer available), University of Virginia Children's Hospital
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), 1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036-5602, (800) 872-5827.
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[Updated May 31, 2017]
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