Youth Issues Unit
Theissue of physical disabilities among learners is a sensitive issue ineducation circles. One is classified as physically disabled if theyexperience a permanent impairment that limits dexterity or theirphysical functioning such as mobility and other daily activities.Physical disability is just one form of disability that impacts one’slearning and education at large. Limitation in physical wellbeingrequires continuous medical attention and specialized attention andcare in learning to ensure that their physical disability does notinhibit their learning. Therefore, in response to these specialneeds, courses and the teaching processes should be designed in amanner that meets the special needs of these learners. This paperdiscusses the implication of physical disabilities and healthimpairments in learning using support from current relevantliterature.
Themost common types of physical disabilities are Hearing impairments,visual impairments, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, Multiple sclerosis(MS), Hemiplegia, Cerebral palsy, Absent limb/reduced limb function,Dystrophy, Polio, deafness, language and speech impairment andneurological impairments that cause physical disabilities (Patton,Serna & Bailey, 2012). All these conditions are terminal andhence any medical intervention, with some incorporated in learning,are geared towards enabling the affected manage the symptoms and livea normal life. For educators, it is important to be well informed onthe conditions and understand the difficulties that affected learnersmay be experiencing in order to put in place the necessary measuresto help them cope and keep up with other learners (ibid). Each of thementioned disabilities has unique special needs.
Forinstance, for cerebral palsy, symptoms vary widely and henceunderstanding the condition is critical. It is defined as a class ofdisorders that develop in the early years of development. It iscaused by injury to the brain during pregnancy, birth, delivery orwithin the early days of life. About 75% of cases are attributed tobrain injury to infants during pregnancy (CDC 2015). There are nodefinite causes of such injuries although mother infections, exposureto radiation are some of the commonly cited causes of cerebral palsyfor infants before birth. Birth trauma and prolonged labor anddelivery complications also cause this disorder. It is usuallycharacterized by lack or poor coordination of voluntary musclemovements, stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes. This canaffect how learners walk, sit or even hold a pen (Patton, Serna &Bailey, 2012). The severity among patients varies a lot and in someminor cases it is unnoticeable.
Unlikesome cases of cerebral palsy, an absent limb/reduced limb function isvery obvious. Reduced limb is what is normally referred to as anundeveloped or amputated limb usually denoted as lower or upper limbreduction. In some cases, children are born with a reduced or absentlimb. The CDC (2015) estimates that 1500 babies are born with upperlimb reductions annually with another 750 born with lower limbreductions over the same period. In some rare cases, these babiesexperience reductions in both upper and lower limbs. Limb reductionsthat occur in the course of life are usually done as a medicalintervention through amputations. Accidents, illnesses such as cancerare common causes of amputations for many children. Irrespective ofwhether such disabilities occur after or before birth, the affectedcan hardly function same way as normal people. It is the role ofteachers and society in general to institute mechanisms, approachesand programs that will make their learning comfortable.
Onesuch approach would be promoting positive and socially supportivebehavior from peers in the classroom. The support and sense ofunderstanding that the disabled students receive from family,friends, peers and teachers is very effective in making the studentsfeel they belong. In some cases, disabled persons have been victimsof social stigmatization, bullying, taunting and even discrimination.Promoting awareness and sensitivity towards these individualsespecially among peers is critical. Alquraini and Gut (2012) indicatethat peer education among peers promotes understanding and reduceschances of stigmatization. It is the role of teachers to teacher thepeers of physical disabilities.
However,awareness is not enough as learning institutions should provide thenecessary recourses. They include providing rumps and lifts inbuildings and also making school buses accommodating to such studentsincluding wheelchairs to ease movement of learners who usewheelchairs (Martha & Brown, 2011). However, this is not only aninstitutional issue but also a government issue as governmentbuildings and streets need to be equipped well with such provisionsto enable the physically disabled operate without problems. It isalso imperative that institutions and governments ensure thatteachers are well trained in handling students with special needs inclass and enforce inclusion (Patton, Serna & Bailey, 2012). Thiswill make the life of the disabled students easier and will alsominimize disruptions and distractions to other students.
Tominimize disruptions and distractions, an integrated approach isrequired. Given that there is no universal approach that has beendeveloped to be applied in handling learners with various forms ofphysical difficulties, all parties involved are crucial in creatingtailor made approaches to suite specific needs of each student(Coster, Law & Bedell 2013). Therefore, this requires the inputall of all stakeholders namely educators, parents, schooladministrators, government and peers in class. All parties contributein their own unique ways of making the learning and living experienceas close to normal as possible in line with the concept of inclusionas opposed to special schools. For teachers, they should liaise withprofessionals and families of students to understand better theirneeds. Again, teachers should always encourage the physically disablestudents to disclose their accessibility concerns in the classroomand the school environment (Martha & Brown, 2011). For otherneeds, teachers can preempt them early enough.
Forinstance, it is highly recommended that teachers should ensure anenabling classroom setting. This means that regardless of thespecific disability or conditions individuals’ learners are facing,the teacher should arrange the class in a manner that allows easymovement around, clear sight to blackboard easy view of the learnersamong other considerations. Such a setting would mean that forlearners probably using wheelchairs, they will not need to ask forspace to move around but the space will be available by default.Additionally, students with physical disabilities of any kind shouldbe allowed to choose their sitting positions in class that bestaccommodates their disabilities (Alquraini, & Gut 2012). Forinstance, it is expected that students with visual impairment mayprefer to sit closer to the blackboard where they can see well. Otherlearners can also play a role according to various teachingstrategies.
Forinstance the buddy system developed by researcher suggests thatfellow students can assist students with psychical disabilities inclass through various activities. For those facing reduced/absentupper limbs, they can have their friends make notes for them inclass. The affected students should be allowed to choose theirfriends who they feel most comfortable with to take notes for them orthose students whose handwriting they can comprehend well. Teachersare also involved in making learning bearable by responding tospecific needs of individual students. For students facinglanguage/speech impairment like in the case of cerebral palsypatients, they might require more time when making presentation inclass or even in answering questions in class (Coster, et al 2013).When applying these strategies, teachers should also be response tonecessary changes such as students own suggestions.
Itis clear from the discussion above that physical disabilities createunique needs for learners. While it is the individual learners whoexperience the difficulties, fellow students, teachers, schooladministrators and teachers are affected by their conditions. It istherefore imperative for all parties involved to make learning andeducation in general as comfortable as possible. This is not only amoral requirement but a professional requirement for educators.Government policies and laws should always be formulated with theobjective of including these students facing physical disabilities inall areas of learning and development.
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