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Children and Orthopedic Impairments

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-10-09 (Rev. 2017-06-03) - An article about Children with Orthopedic Impairments IDEA and Assistive Technologies. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World.

Main Document

Quote: "The United States Department of Education reports that there were five million, nine-hundred and seventy-one thousand, four-hundred and ninety-five students receiving special education services during the 2003 through 2004 school year."

The definition of an, "Orthopedic Impairment," is one that includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies such as absence of a member, clubfoot, impairments caused by disease such as bone tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, or impairments for other causes to include amputations, fractures, cerebral palsy, burns, or fractures.

Defining Orthopedic Impairment

The definition of an, 'Orthopedic Impairment,' is one that includes impairments caused by congenital anomalies such as absence of a member, clubfoot, impairments caused by disease such as bone tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, or impairments for other causes to include amputations, fractures, cerebral palsy, burns, or fractures, for example:

A neuromotor impairment is one that has caused damage to or is considered to be an, 'abnormality,' of the child's spinal cord, brain, or nervous system. Neuromotor impairments are ones that are acquired either at or prior to the birth of the child and many times result in complex motor issues that may affect a number of their body systems. Neuromotor impairments may include ones such as limited limb movement, a loss of appropriate alignment of the child's spine, or loss of urinary control. Two of the most common forms of neuromotor impairments include spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy is a general term that refers to a number of non-progressive disorders which affect voluntary movement and posture that are caused by malfunctions or damages to a person's brain and occur prior to or during birth, or within the first few years of the person's life. People with cerebral palsy experience involuntary, and/or uncoordinated movements. Four of the more common forms of cerebral palsy include Athetoid, Spastic, Ataxic, and Mixed. Cerebral palsy may also be classified according to the person's limbs that are affected. These classifications include:

Spina Bifida is a form of developmental disability involving a person's spinal column. Spina bifida is characterized by an opening in the spinal column, often in combination with paralysis of portions of the person's body. The disability may or may not involve some level of affect on the person's intellectual function. Forms of spina bifida can include occulta or cystica; occulta is a milder form of spina bifida while cystica is more serious.

Degenerative diseases are comprised of a number of diseases which affect a person's motor development. The more common degenerative disease found among school-age persons is muscular dystrophy, a group of inherited diseases that are characterized by progressive muscle weakness due to degeneration of the person's muscle fibers. Children may also experience Musculoskeletal disorders which are comprised of a number of conditions that may result in varying levels of physical limitations. Examples of musculoskeletal disabilities include limb deficiencies and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The particular impact a disability will have on a child's learning is dependent upon the disability and its severity, as well as individual factors. Children with the same diagnosis can have quite different abilities where learning is concerned.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that an orthopedic impairment is a severe impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Use of the term, 'orthopedic impairment,' in conjunctions with IDEA includes impairments due to effects of congenital anomalies such as absence of a member or clubfoot, impairments caused by the effects of a disease, and impairments due to other causes such as amputations, cerebral palsy, burns, or fractures. While IDEA uses the term, 'orthopedic impairments,' children who experience physical disabilities can also have neuromotor impairments such as skeletal system, joint, muscle, or limb disabilities and qualify for IDEA. Neurological and orthopedic disabilities are two distinct forms of disabilities, but they both cause similar limitations in movement, and there is a close relationship between them.

Children might either be born with or acquire problems with their joints, bones or muscles. Orthopedic problems can be the result of diseases, deformities, surgeries or injuries. Orthopedic issues that a child faces may be ones from birth such as osteogenesis imperfect, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or joint deformities. Surgery or injury can result in loss of bone or muscle tissue, or include the amputation of a limb. Broken bones and burns may also lead to damage to either muscles or bones. Orthopedic problems vary - children may experience trouble using their hands, arms, or legs. Some of these children will make use of assistive devices and technologies in order to function as independently as they can.

The United States Department of Education reports that there were five million, nine-hundred and seventy-one thousand, four-hundred and ninety-five students receiving special education services during the 2003 through 2004 school year. Of these students, about one point one percent received special education services based on a classification of orthopedic impairments. A number of students who have orthopedic impairments do not experience learning, cognitive, language, perceptual, or sensory difficulties. Students with neuromotor impairments do have a higher incidence of other disabilities, particularly if there is brain involvement.

Students with Orthopedic Impairments and Assistive Devices

Where the majority of students with orthopedic impairments are concerned it is a matter of focusing on needed accommodations in the academic environment. As with many students with disabilities, classroom accommodations for students with orthopedic impairments vary depending on the individual and their particular needs. Because the majority of students with orthopedic impairments do not experience cognitive disabilities as well, an educator should collaborate with the student in relation to their curriculum as much as possible or needed.

For a student with orthopedic disabilities to access a generalized curriculum, an educator might be required to meet the following accommodations:

  • Seating arrangements to develop useful posture and movements
  • Instruction that is focused on development of gross and fine motor skills
  • Ensuring suitable augmentative communication and other assistive devices
  • Adequate awareness of the student's medical condition and its affect on the student

Due to the unique nature of orthopedic impairments, additional specialists might need to become involved in the development and implementation of appropriate educational programming for the student.

There are various specialists that may become involved, such as:

  • Physical Therapists
  • Additional Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Adapted Physical Education Teachers

Because there are varying levels of orthopedic impairments, a number of types of assistive technologies might be used. The assistive technologies used need to address the needs of the student so that they are able to access the educational curriculum, as it would be with any other student with a disability. Technologies that may apply specifically to students with orthopedic disabilities may include:

Students with orthopedic disabilities may also use devices for both mobility and positioning. The assistive devices they use are focused on assisting them to participate in educational activities.

The devices these students use may include:

Related Information:

  1. Disability, Mobility Impairments and Students with Disabilities - Students with disabilities may experience a range of different mobility impairments that might require accommodations in school or university settings - Wendy Taormina-Weiss
  2. Orthopedics: Bones, Joints, Ligaments & Tendons - Orthopedic Information on the human musculoskeletal system including bones joints and tendons.
  3. MADE KNOWN: Tips to Help Children with Disabilities - Trying to have people with disabilities MADE KNOWN in their families, communities, villages, and countries - Made Known




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