The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines an orthopedic impairment as one that severely and adversely affects a child’s school performance. Orthopedic impairments can be caused by congenital anomalies such as club foot, diseases such as osteogenesis imperfecta, or other causes such as cerebral palsy or amputation of limbs. Although IDEA groups orthopedic impairments together, children with these disabilities can actually have orthopedic impairment or neuromotor impairment. Orthopedic impairment involves bones, joints, limbs, and muscles, and neuromotor impairment involves the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
Types of Impairments
Orthopedic and neuromotor impairments are different and separate disability types, but they can cause similar limitations. Common characteristics of orthopedic impairment and neuromotor impairment involve problems using hands, arms, and legs. Relationships also exist between orthopedic and neuromotor impairments. A child with spinal cord damage (neuromotor) unable to move her legs, for example, may develop bone and muscle disorders in the legs (orthopedic).
The same types of therapy and educational and recreational accommodations are often appropriate for children with orthopedic and neuromotor impairments. Physical therapists can help improve gross motor skills, occupational therapists can help improve fine motor skills, and speech-language pathologists work with a student on speech and language difficulties. Adapted physical education teachers work with physical and occupational therapists to provide an exercise program to students with disabilities.
While two children may have the same diagnoses, they may have very different physical and intellectual capabilities. Students with neuromotor impairments are more likely to have additional impairments if brain damage is involved. Many students with orthopedic impairments, however, do not have learning, language, perceptual, or sensory problems. Most students with orthopedic impairments will require educational modifications and accommodations, and assistive technology to function as independently as possible.
Modifications & Assisstive Technology
Although classroom modifications and accommodations will vary dependent on a student’s individual needs, the following list are some common needs. General classroom teachers and special educators should collaborate to include students with disabilities student in the general curriculum. To participate as fully as possible in educational activities, the student may require these accommodations:
- special seating arrangements, larger tables;
- note-taking assistance;
- instruction focused on impairments in and the improvement of gross and fine motor skills;
- securing assistive technology and augmentative communication devices;
- extended time to complete assignments, and;
- teacher awareness of student’s condition and its affect (such as tiring easily).
Assistive technology devices help students with various levels of severity of orthopedic impairment. These devices enable access to the educational curriculum and may include one or more of the following:
- speech recognition software;
- alternative keyboards and mice;
- augmentative and alternative communication devices;
- word prediction software;
- screen reading software, and;
- academic software for students with disabilities.
Educators should remember that students with these types of impairments should be educated and treated as typical students, while accommodating their physical disabilities.