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Fear of the Unknown: Disabilities {+ Bonus Freebie}

As I sit here trying to think of the best way to give you a general overview of disabilities that is simple enough for students to understand, I will admit I’m a bit overwhelmed at such a task! There are just so many different disabilities and levels of those disabilities that it would be nearly impossible for me to cover all of them! So in an effort to simplify things for your students I have chosen a few of the most common disabilities to review. I apologize if I’ve missed any that you were hoping would be covered! A few of my guest bloggers will go into more detail on some of the specific disabilities but for now here is your overview.

Since I am a visual learner I tried to use pictures to help organize my thoughts. We’ll start with the disability umbrella (please remember these are just SOME of the many different types of disabilities)

Disabilities Umbrella
Graphic: Fonts: Creative Clips & This Little Piggy Reads

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, there are 13 categories listed:  1. Autism  2. Deaf-Blindness  3. Deafness  4. Emotional Disturbance   5. Hearing Impairment  6. Mental Retardation (also known as an intellectual or cognitive impairment)  7. Multiple Disabilities  8. Orthopedic Impairment  9. Other Health Impairment  10. Specific Learning Disability  11. Speech or Language Impairment  12. Traumatic Brain Injury  13. Visual Impairment (including Blindness)

I have chosen to focus on the 8 listed on the umbrella (by the way Speech and Language is only on the handle because there wasn't room on the top of the umbrella). If you would like more specifics on any of the 13 mentioned above click here.

The following are abbreviated/paraphrased definitions of disabilities as described in IDEA 2004.

Visual Impairments (VI): Occur when individuals have difficulty doing everyday tasks even with the help of corrective lenses. Being completely blind (not able to see anything) is the extreme.

Hearing Impairments (HI): Refers to partial or total hearing loss. Some individuals are born with hearing impairments. They can also be brought on by factors such as old age, noise pollution, illness, or injury. Hearing aids and/or sign language can be used by individuals with hearing impairments. Some people who are deaf can also learn to speak and use a combination of sign language and auditable speech to communicate with others.

Learning Disabilities (LD): Paraphrasing Sec. 602 (30)(A) IDEA 2004: A disorder involving understanding or using language (spoken or written) demonstrated by an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do math. This does not include learning difficulties that are a result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, mental impairments, emotional impairments or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. A few common learning disabilities include: •Dyslexia = Reading Disability •Dyscalculia = Math Disability •Dysgraphia = Writing Disability •Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders = sensory disabilities causing difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision. •Nonverbal Learning Disabilities = a neurological disorder causing visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and processing difficulties. (Dyspraxia =  Fine Motor Disability and ADD/ADHD = Attention Deficit Disorder can often co-occur with LD)

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A group of complex disorders in brain development that usually become apparent within the first 3 years of life. Three main characteristics of the disorder include difficulties in social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communications and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

Physical Impairments (PI): Occur when the ability to move, coordinate actions or perform physical activities is significantly limited, impaired or delayed. This may show up in physical and motor tasks, independent movement or performing basic life functions. Includes things like severe orthopedic impairments, cerebral palsy, and amputations. •Physical Therapy (PT) works on large muscle/motor skills such as walking, jumping, balancing, etc. •Occupational Therapy (OT) works on small/fine motor skills such as writing, dressing, feeding, etc.

Emotional Impairments (EI): A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects educational performance: •An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors •An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers •Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances •A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression •A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The determination of disability shall not be made because the student is socially maladjusted...

Cognitive Impairment (CI): Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning AND deficits in adaptive behavior, manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Speech or Language Impairments (SLI): A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

I put together a disability awareness booklet for elementary age students. This booklet is designed for general education teachers to use with their students. I had several special educators review it for me so I hope it will prove to be a helpful resource for you.

Be sure to come back next week as we will hear from our first special guest blogger! References:,,,,


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Thanks for sharing information. I got many information of disabilities and there was many school also provide Disabilities & Special Needs

and thanks ones again for searing this informative blog.

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