Types of Disabilities
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a persistent pattern of inattention
or hyperactivity / impulsivity manifested in academic, employment, or social situations.
In academic and employment settings, ADHD may be demonstrated by careless mistakes
and disorganized work. Individuals often have difficulty concentrating on and completing
tasks, frequently shifting from one incomplete activity to another. In social situations,
inattention may be apparent by frequent shifts in conversation, poor listening comprehension,
and not following the details or rules of games and other activities. Symptoms of
hyperactivity may take the form of restlessness and difficulty with quiet activities.
ADHD arises during childhood and is attributed neither to gross neurological, sensory,
language or motor impairment nor to mental retardation or severe emotional disturbance.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism is a brain disorder that often interferes with a person’s ability to communicate with and relate to others. Individuals with autism have difficulty with social interactions and relationships. Other symptoms of autism include difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication and limited, repetitive, and overused patterns of behavior, interests, and play. Many typical behaviors, such as repetitive body rocking, unusual attachments to objects, and holding fast to routines and rituals, are driven by the need for sameness and resistance to change.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neuron-cognitive disorder that is defined by qualitative impairments in social interaction, language, and behavior including verbal and non-verbal communication, attention issues, poor motor coordination, and restricted and/or repetitive interests. Students are of average or above average intelligence and have no clinically significant delay in language learning. The following characteristics may be present in an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome:
• Frequent errors in the interpretation of body language, intentions, or facial expressions
• Difficulty understanding the motives and perceptions of others
• Problems asking for help
• May show motor clumsiness, unusual body movements and/or repetitive behavior
• Often have difficulty with the big picture
• Difficulties with transitions and changes in schedule
• Wants things “just so”
• Problems with organization (including initiating, planning, carrying out, and finishing tasks)
• Deficits in abstract thinking (concrete, focuses on irrelevant details, difficulty generalizing)
• Unusual sensitivity to touch, sounds, and visual details, may experience sensory overload
Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, and Deaf-Blind
An individual who is deaf has a hearing loss of such severity that he or she depends
primarily upon visual communication such as sign language, lip-reading (also called
speech-reading), writing, or gestures. A person who is hard-of-hearing has a functional
hearing loss, but may not depend primarily on visual communication. The causes and
degrees of hearing loss vary across the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, as do
methods of communication. There are two major types of hearing loss:
Conductive loss affects the sound-conducting paths of the outer and middle ear. The degree of loss can be accommodated through the use of a hearing aid or by surgery, but can rarely be corrected completely. People with conductive loss might speak softly, hear better in noisy surroundings than people with normal hearing, and might experience ringing in their ears or difficulties with balance and dizziness.
Sensory-neural loss affects the inner ear and the auditory nerve and can range from mild to profound. Hearing aids, surgery, and other devices may not be as effective in accommodating this type of hearing loss. People with sensory-neural loss might speak loudly, experience greater high-frequency loss, have difficulty distinguishing consonant sounds, and not hear well in noisy environments.
The inability to hear does not affect an individual’s native intelligence or the physical ability to produce sounds. However, given the close relationship between oral language and hearing, persons with hearing loss might also have speech impairments. Age at the time of the loss determines whether an individual is pre-lingually deaf (hearing loss before oral language acquisition) or adventitiously deaf (normal hearing during language acquisition). Those born deaf or who become deaf as very young children might have more limited speech development.
Definition of Deaf-Blindness
According to the American Association of the Deaf-Blind, an individual with this condition would meet the following guidelines for vision and hearing:
• 20/200 or greater in central vision (uncorrected) and/or
• Less than 20 degrees peripheral vision
• Ongoing hearing loss; cannot be corrected
• Speech may not be understood easily
• Deaf-Blind can include:
• Deaf and low vision
• Deaf and limited peripheral vision
• Deaf and blind
• Hard of hearing and low vision
• Hard of hearing and limited peripheral vision
• Hard of hearing and blind
Learning Disabilities is a broad term that refers to a wide variety of significant
difficulties with information processing, as manifested by interference with the acquisition,
organization, storage, retrieval, or expression of information. These information
processing limitations are intrinsic to the individual and are presumed to be neurologically
based. The diagnosis of learning disabilities in an adult requires documentation of
at least average intellectual functioning along with a deficit in one or more of the
• Auditory processing
• Visual processing
• Information processing speed
• Abstract and general reasoning
• Spoken and written language skills
• Reading skills
• Mathematical skills
• Spatial skills
• Motor skills
• Executive functioning (planning ability)
• Memory (long-term, short-term, visual, and auditory)
• Oral expression
• Listening comprehension
A learning disability may occur with, but cannot be primarily the result of, a visual, hearing, or motor impairment; mental impairment; emotional disorders; or environmental, cultural, economic influences, or a history of insufficient/inappropriate education programming. An individual with a learning disability is likely to have a combination of factors that may interfere with achieving one’s full potential. Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions that, in some cases, affect many aspects of a person’s life (school, work, daily routines, family life, and friendships). Some individuals may have a single learning problem that has little impact of other parts of their lives.
Mobility Impairments refer to conditions that limit an individual’s coordination or
ability to move. Some mobility impairments are caused by conditions present at birth
while others are the result of illness or physical injury. Injuries cause different
types of mobility impairments, depending on what area of the spine is affected.
Quadriplegia is paralysis of the extremities and trunk is caused by a neck injury. Individuals with quadriplegia have limited or no use of their arms and hands.
Paraplegia is paralysis of the lower extremities and the lower trunk is caused by an injury to the mid-back. Individuals have full movement of arms and hands.
Other causes of mobility impairments are muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, amputation, arthritis, and back disorders. A variety of symptoms may be present, including muscle weakness, decreased flexibility, and loss of balance, difficulty with dexterity and coordination, or limited ability to walk or climb stairs. Characteristics will vary from individual to individual.
A psychiatric condition may constitute a disability. The course of the condition is
unique for each person and may result in the disruption of learning and career goals.
Examples of psychiatric disabilities covered under the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) include:
• Major depression
• Bipolar disorder
• Anxiety disorders
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
Systemic Disabilities are conditions affecting one or more of the body’s systems, including the respiratory,
immunological, neurological, circulatory, or digestive systems. There are many kinds
of systemic impairments, varying significantly in effects and symptoms. Individuals
with systemic disabilities differ from those with other disabilities because systemic
disabilities are often unstable. This causes a person’s condition to vary; therefore,
the need for and type of reasonable accommodations may change. Some examples of systemic
disabilities include the following:
Diabetes mellitus causes a person to lose the ability to regulate blood sugar. People with diabetes often need to follow a strict diet and my require insulin injections. During a diabetic reaction, a person may experience confusion, sudden personality changes, or loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, diabetes can also cause vision loss, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, stroke, or necessitate the amputation of limbs.
Epilepsy / Seizure Disorder causes a person to experience a loss of consciousness. Episodes, or seizures, vary from short absence or “petit mal” seizures to the less common “grand mal.” Seizures are frequently controlled by medications and usually are not emergency situations. Epstein Barr Virus / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – is an autoimmune disorder which causes extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, and depression. Physical or emotional stress may aggravate the condition.
Lyme Disease – is a multi-systemic condition which can cause paralysis, fatigue, fever, dermatitis, sleeping problems, memory dysfunction, cognitive difficulties, and depression.
Lupus Erythematosis can cause inflammatory lesions, neurological problems, extreme fatigue, persistent flu-like symptoms, impaired cognitive ability, connective tissue dysfunction, and mobility impairments. Lupus most often affects young women.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) often results from prolonged exposure to chemicals. A person with MCS becomes increasingly sensitive to chemicals found in everyday environments. Reactions can be caused by cleaning products, pesticides, petroleum products, vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, room deodorizers, perfumes, and scented personal products. Though reactions vary, nausea, rashes, light-headedness, and respiratory distress are common to MCS.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological condition with a variety of symptoms such as loss of strength, numbness, vision impairments, tremors, and depression. The intensity of MS symptoms can vary greatly; one day a person might be extremely fatigued and the next day feel strong. Extreme temperatures can also adversely affect a person with MS.
The Office of Disability Services provides accommodations to students with temporary
disabilities arising from injury, surgery, or short-term medical conditions. To receive
accommodations for a temporary disability, the individual must submit a doctor’s note
to our office indicating the type of disability, limitations, prognosis, and estimated
duration. Additionally, the student should contact all instructors to discuss means
of completing class requirements and exams during the period of the temporary disability.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Though not always visible and sometimes seemingly minor, brain injury is complex.
It can cause physical, cognitive, social, and vocational changes that can affect an
individual for a short period of time or permanently. Depending on the extent and
location of the brain injury, symptoms can vary widely. Some common results are seizures,
loss of balance or coordination, difficulty with speech, limited concentration, memory
loss, and loss of organizational and reasoning skills.
There are approximately 12 million blind and visually impaired individuals in the United States. Some blind individuals may not have any useable vision or their vision may be extremely limited (light, color, or shadow perception only). Only two percent of individuals with vision impairments are totally blind; most blind individuals have some amount of usable vision. What they all have in common is a bilateral visual impairment that makes it more difficult to do major life activities and cannot be adequately corrected by medical or surgical intervention, therapy, conventional eyewear, or contact lenses. Blindness can be defined in several ways. An individual is considered “legally blind” if their best corrected visual acuity is 20/200 or less. This means that, at best, the individual can see an object from a distance of 20 feet that a person with “normal” (20/20) vision can see from a distance of 200 feet. An individual is also considered legally blind if their vision field – everything seen while looking straight ahead, including peripheral (side) and central (straight ahead) vision – is 20 degrees or less. The typical human visual field is 180 degrees. Some individuals, while not legally blind, may need some type of accommodation due to other eye conditions that prevent them from reading print for extended periods of time.