Types of Disabilities

Parents go through tremendous trauma when the realization dawns upon them that their child is a special one. Initially, there is shock and a deep sense of loss. Parents go through various stages of emotional turmoil before they come to accept the truth. Even then, the responses vary. To add to it, they are confused by the various medical terminology and jargon used by doctors leaving them feeling thoroughly inadequate in handling such a child.

This site will serve to fill this communication gap and to clear the terms. Once these terms are clearly defined, a feeling of being better equipped and more in control of the situation is sure to prevail. We hope to serve as the Link for better coordination between the doctor and the parents.

A child is 'special' when his capacities and needs are different from that of his peers. She has difficulties/disabilities which other children do not have. A broad classification of special children can be made on the basis of a child's mental and physical condition.

Mental Disabilities - Related to the Brain

Physical Disabilities - Related to Body and Sensory Functions

These are the major disabilities, but there are also other conditions like Epilepsy, Diabetes, Cancer, Muscular Dystrophy, which need proper treatment and management.


The terms 'Impairment', 'Disability' and 'Handicap' are often used while referring to a special child, perhaps a little too loosely and some times interchanged wrongly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has helped clear these concepts.

An Impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function e.g. losing a limb in an accident. Impairment may or may not interfere with the performance of a child.

A Disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being. Disability may be congenital or acquired. It focuses on what an individual cannot do.

A Handicap is a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or a disability, that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that is normal (depending on the age, sex, and local and cultural factors) for that individual. This can be explained in the following way:

Handicap = Disability x Societal Reaction

So, attitude of society towards a disability is of prime importance in the management of a special child.

Many a time, parents fail to recognize a child having disability, especially when it is not visible e.g., hearing impairment. Since there is treatment gap, the speech development of the child also suffers. It becomes imperative that the parents are observant in the early stages of child development.


  • Delayed Milestones
    Milestones are stages of expected physical and mental development of a child at a particular age.
    e.g. a child learns to sit by the time he is seven months old.

  • Inappropriate Responses
    Reactions, which are not right in a particular situation
    e.g. a hearing impaired child will not be affected by loud noise of crackers.

  • Maladaptive behaviour
    Behaviour which is detrimental to the well being of a child
    e.g. a child engages in physically harmful, dangerous activities not for the sake of fun or thrill of it, but he has no consideration for the possible consequences.
Remember, these above characteristics are just the pointers. Not necessary they are sure indication of a child being special.

Once you have any reason for doubt about your child's development depending upon the problem or condition, you should take your child for diagnosis and treatment and management to:

1   Family Physician Initial / Preliminary Diagnosis
2   Pediatrician Same as above
3   Neurologist Neurological defects like CP MR,  Epilepsy, etc
4   Clinical Psychologist MR, Autism, Learning difficulty
5   ENT/Speech audio therapist Hearing impairment,CP
6   Eye surgeon Visual impairments, CP, Learning difficulty
7   Physiotherapist / Occupational therapist Orthopaedically Handicapped ,CP
8   Orthopedic surgeon Same as above
9   Remedial / resource /special educationist Learning difficulty, MR, CP
10   Psychiatrist Emotional/Behavioral problems
11   Counselors Same as above
12   School teachers Detection of scholastic problems and implementation of educational plan
13   Child Guidance Clinics Holistic management

The integrated effort of all the above professionals is necessary to work on the child.