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Types of Disabilities

Nov 29, 2022

If a person has a disability, this means that they suffer with a condition of the mind or body that makes it difficult for them to communicate effectively with others or complete day-to-day activities in the same way as others. This means that their life is in some way limited.

There are four main categories that define disabilities:

1. Behavioural or emotional.

2. Sensory impaired disorders.

3. Physical.

4. Developmental.

What is a behavioural or emotional disability?

A behavioural disorder can be disruptive, and if it is not diagnosed in childhood, it can impact a person’s ability to hold down a job and maintain relationships. Behavioural disorders include anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, disruptive or impulsive behaviours, and pervasive development disorders. Emotional disabilities are a type of behavioural disability, but that’s because our emotions often influence our actions.

An emotional disability often relates to a disability that prevents a person’s ability to maintain or build interpersonal relationships with others. They can also struggle to control their emotions and often feel unhappy in their life. This means they often act inappropriately in normal circumstances, or suffer with feelings of fear or anxiety, especially in relation to personal matters.

What is a sensory-impaired disorder?

This type of disability is quite self-explanatory as it relates to the senses: hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight. If a person has a sensory disability, this means that the senses are no longer at the usual levels that others experience. For example, if you suffer with a vision impairment, this could mean that you need to wear glasses to improve your sight or vision abilities. However, there are more serious vision impairments, as some people are unable to see at all as they are blind.

If you have hearing difficulties or are deaf, you may have a hearing aid, and this is classed as having a hearing impairment. Many older adults also report sensory issues in relation to their taste and touch. Taste issues can impact their eating habits while issues with touch can mean that they struggle to fasten buttons, for example.

What is a physical disability?

A physical disability is a condition that impacts a person’s physical abilities, stamina, mobility and their ability to move and use their hands. There are many obvious physical disabilities, but even a condition such as epilepsy is a physical disability, even though you may not be able to tell visually, or by speaking to the person. That’s because a seizure incapacitates the person who has this condition and can place limitations on a person’s life.

Other physical disabilities include:

· Brain injuries.

· Respiratory disorders.

· Hearing impairments.

· Spinal cord injuries.

· Multiple sclerosis.

· Visual impairments.

The above are just some examples, as there are many, many more types of physical disabilities.

What is a developmental disability?

A developmental disability refers to conditions that occur during childhood years, as they affect a person’s ability to develop in the same way as others. They impact a person’s ability to learn, impact their language, or initiate behavioural difficulties within a person. These types of conditions are said to develop through childhood, up to the age of 22 years old.

There are said to be five developmental disabilities, which include:

· Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

· Cerebral palsy.

· Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

· Intellectual disability.

· Learning disabilities.

Developmental disabilities are often described as being severe and chronic because of the way they limit a person’s life. They can impact self-care, learning, mobility, self-direction, economic self-sufficiency, receptive and expressive language, and independent living.


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