Some special needs may be hidden or not easy to see.
“Special Needs” is an umbrella underneath which a staggering array of diagnoses can be wedged. People with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; food allergies or terminal illness; developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched; occasional panic attacks or serious psychiatric problems; as well as more minor to extreme physical challenges.
Sometimes visible to us, but more often hidden in plain sight, special populations inhabit the margins of our society, each with a unique set of needs. Ethnic minorities, veterans, disabled people, prison inmates, refugees and immigrants, children, and the elderly all face complex challenges as they strive to attain the advantages that other groups enjoy. Recent political events have added more pressure, such as increased U.S. military operations that have produced more veterans with special needs. Meanwhile, the weakening of traditional sources of economic stability, like home ownership, places special populations at even greater risk of hardship.
This page offers you a variety of links and multimedia resources to explore this issue further on your own – or connect with others doing the work.
There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person’s:
Anyone can have a disability and a disability can occur at any point in a person’s life, such as:
International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in 2001. The ICF provides a standard language for classifying changes in body function and structure, activity, participation levels, and environmental factors that influence health. This helps to assess the health, functioning, activities, and factors in the environment that either help or create barriers for people to fully participate in society.
The ICF parts are presented here in modified form for easier reading.
For more information, please visit the WHO website.
This term refers to illness, disease, disorder, injury or trauma. The condition is usually a diagnosis. For example, autism spectrum disorders, spina bifida, and traumatic brain injury are health conditions.
Body structures are physical parts of the body. For example, heart, legs, and eyes are body structures.
Body functions describe how body parts and systems work. For example, thinking, hearing, and digesting food are body functions.
Functional limitations are difficulties completing a variety of basic or complex activities that are associated with a health problem. For example, vision loss, hearing loss, and inability to move one’s legs are functional limitations.
Activity means doing a task or action. For example, eating, writing, and walking are activities.
Activity limitations are difficulties a person may have in doing activities. For example, not being able to brush one’s teeth or open a medicine bottle are activity limitations.
Participation means being involved in a life situation and fully participating in society. For example, attending school and playing sports. This also means including people with disabilities in all aspects of a communities’ political, social, economic and cultural life.
Participation restrictions are problems a person may have in life situations.
Environmental factors are things in the environment that affect a person’s life. For example, technology, support and relationships, services, policies, and the beliefs of others are environmental factors.
Personal factors relate to the person, such as age, gender, social status, and life experiences.
Related Health Conditions
The following links provide information from CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities on certain disability-related health conditions:
JULY 27, 2012
Americans with Disabilities Act
Matthew Brault and Curtis Decker talked about the anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also responded to telephone calls and electronic communications. Among other issues, they discussed the definitions of “disability,” demographics of disabled Americans, types of disabilities, employment status and poverty rates among the disabled, and the effects of federal policies on the disability community.
This program is part of C-SPAN’s regular Friday “America by the Numbers” series.