Physically exceptional children

Physically exceptional children.

The term physically exceptional has been used in literature in various ways: Physically disabled, crippled, orthopedically impaired, or otherwise health impaired. Physical handicaps are divided into two types: Orthopedically handicapped (OH) and Health impairments for the purpose of special education (Bigge and Sirvis, 1986).

The legal definition of the term orthopedically handicapped is a severe, orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child‟s educational performance.

The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly e.g., club foot, absence of some body organs, impairments caused by disease, e.g poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, and impairment from other causes e.g. cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures.

The legal definition for other health impairments is having an acute condition that is manifested by severe communication and other developmental and educational problems, or having limited strength, vitality or alertness because of acute health problems e.g., heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, anaemia, haemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukaemia or diabetes that adversely affects a child‟s educational performance.

However, there are certain neurological disorders which are not categorized as either crippling or a special health problem e.g. aphasia – a language disorder due to brain injury.

Hence, from an educational point of view crippling and neurological impairments would include all children with non-sensory physical impairments whether they are accompanied by a neurological damage or not, and whether they resulted in chronic health condition or not.

Basically non-sensory physical impairments may be classified as crippling and chronic health ailments. The cripples have muscular and skeletal deformities which are obvious. They may wear braces, prosthetics devices such as artificial limbs or may be moving with crutches or wheel chairs.

A teacher or educator is less interested in the physical aspects of disability but he is more concerned with the manner in which it will affect the child‟s functioning in learning situation.

  1. Children with muscular or neuromuscular handicaps which significantly limit their ability to get about, sit in the classroom, manipulate the materials.
  2. Children with skeletal deformities which also affect movement, posture and use of hand in school work.
  3. Children with temporary or chronic lack of strength, vitality or weakness.

The categorization of orthopedic disability according to extent and severity:

Mild — < 40%,
Moderate – 40% and above
Severe – 70% and above, and,
Profound – 100%


It is estimated that physical handicaps occur to the tune of 2%. The most common physical impairments found in school are Cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida, and Muscular dystrophy.

The National Sample Survey 1991 puts it at 8.939 million in India (orthopaedic) out 16.15 million of the physically handicapped in 80:20 rural-urban, and 60:40 male-female ratio. In 1981 physically disabled were 1.94% and 1.42% for rural and urban population respectively. The corresponding figure in 1991 NSSO was 1.99% and 1.58% respectively.


The causes for physical handicap are many and varied. Brain damage, brain fever and brain anoxia lead to physical disability. Rh-incompatibility, intoxication, viral infection for the expectant mother may also causes physical disability.

Similarly, prolonged labour, lead poisoning, accidents may cause damage to the brain leading to neurological disorders. Polio, Burns and injuries are significant causes as per NSSO, 1991 for Indian society.


One or more of these disorders are manifested in the children who are physically exceptional:
1. Deformity in fingers, legs, hands, spine, neck.
2. Frequent pain in joints
3. Jerking movement in walking
4. Amputed limbs
5. Difficulty in sitting, standing, walking
6. Poor motor control
7. Shaky movements
8. Difficulty in picking, holding and putting things.


Physically handicapped students generally have average or above average intelligence. Dykes (1984-85) suggest 85% of health impaired and 35% of orthopedically handicapped children are served in special schools or classes. Often their needs vary.

The greater needs of the physically handicapped children are in the areas of adaptive equipment. Often they require wheel chairs, crutches, head pointers, arm and leg braces. Technological gap has narrowed down the gap in providing adequate educational instruction to students who can not speak move or use hands.

Physically handicapped children are passive, less persistent having shorter attention span, engage them in less exploration and display less motivation. They are more dependent on adults, and interact less with peers. Facilitating independence and building self esteem are the two requirements for the physically handicapped children.

The physically disabled has poor body image, high anxiety, and frustration. They are found to be quiet, conforming, tender minded and somewhat tense. Social relationships constitute a problem area for many crippled youngsters. Their capacity for frustration tolerance is lower than normal children.

Difficulties of orthopedically handicapped arise out of several factors. Essentially children with motor disabilities are not very different from normal boys and girls. Their handicap arises out of three factors:

  1. Society‟s attitude towards them.
  2. Child‟s interpretation of this reaction to his limitation.
  3. Discrepancy between aspiration and achievement.

Because of neurological impairment and experimental impoverishment they do show perceptual difficulties.
Intelligence of the orthopedically handicapped children does not basically differ from those of normal except for cerebral palsy.

The neuro- muscularly impaired children function 10 to 15 points between estimated intelligence. Children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and hydrocephalic are included in the dull normal classification while other children with the orthopedic disability are within the normal range.


Educational Provisions

Orthopedically handicapped children do not need any special situation for schooling.  They can be educated well in the regular school along with others.  The regular classroom teacher can well handle such cases.


Integrated Education

Education of OH children has changed considerably over the past 50 years. Programs of children with orthopaedic handicaps have broadened extensively to include the process of rehabilitation.  This is studying the total child.  Each staff member has to participate and show sensitivity and natural respect.

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