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        What is Orthopedic Impairment

“Orthopedic impairment describes a number of disorders that are divided into three categories: neuromotor impairments, degenerative diseases, and musculoskeletal disorders” (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2018, p. 498).

Characteristics of 

Orthopedic Impairment

  • Impairments in speech (neuromotor and degenerative disorders)

  • Difficulty joining in physical activities due to limited mobility

  • May feel excluded because of disability

  • Hypotonia 

  • Deficits in fine and gross motor skills

  • May need assistance with all tasks of daily living

  • Sees things with a unique perspective

  • Resilient

  • Displays remarkable neuroplasticity

  • Adaptable

  • Difficulty writing and typing without assistive aids depending on impairment

  • Difficulty participating in speech presentations depending on impairment

  • May have poor organizational skills depending on impairment

  • Involuntary movements

  • Difficulty controlling facial expressions (neuromotor and degenerative disorders)

  • May have cognitive impairment (neuromotor and degenerative disorders)

  • May experience behavior changes (neuromotor and degenerative disorders)

  • Degenerative and neuromotor diseases can affect cognitive ability

Levels of Severity
  • Orthopedic impairment can be mild, moderate or severe

  • Orthopedic impairments are divided into three categories:

    • Neuromotor impairments (e.g. cerebral palsy)

    • Degenerative diseases (e.g. muscular dystrophy)

    • Musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. scoliosis)




  • Approximately 1% of K-12 students have an orthopedic impairment.

  • Teachers should be aware of what type of orthopedic impairment their student(s) have and prepare to have assistive technology available.

  • Differentiation and group work planning should be offered to students with orthopedic impairment

  • The type and severity of the student(s)’ orthopedic impairment should be taken into account when planning classroom activities for inclusion.


Student Questions

Grades K-4:

  • Where is the bathroom?

  • Can I go to recess, too?

  • Can someone walk with me to lunch?

Grades 5-8:  

  • Who do I talk to if I’m feeling bullied?

  • Can I go on field trips with the class?

  • What do I do if I get too tired to walk somewhere?


Grades 9-12:

  • How will I get to my classes on another floor?

  •  Will I be allowed extra time to get to each class?

  •  Who can I talk to if I’m having difficulty getting around the school?

Parent Questions
  • Who do I talk to about getting an Individualized Education Plan for my child?

  • Are the schools, classrooms, and recess areas accessible to my child?

  • Will my child be paired with someone to show them around the school?

  • Should I plan to come along to all field trips?

  • Will my child have extra time to get to and from their classes?

  • Will transportation be available to my child?

Teacher Questions
  • Where do I get additional training for working with students with an orthopedic impairment?

  • What assistive technology do I have available to help me differentiate instruction for students with an orthopedic impairment?

  • How can I make my classroom accessible to students with an orthopedic impairment?

  • What administrative and additional support do I have to help me support my students with an orthopedic impairment?

  • How can I model tolerance and inclusion in my classroom?

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