Understanding Disabilities

Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a complex condition on the autistic spectrum. People with Asperger syndrome generally function well in their daily lives. However, they may avoid social contact as much as possible, because it may make them uncomfortable. For example, decoding non-verbal communication (facial expressions, gestures, etc.) of the person they are talking to is particularly difficult for them, thus making social interaction more challenging, Furthermore, they may not grasp the purpose or importance of social norms.

People with Asperger are generally of average or superior intelligence and have a very good memory (particularly photographic) and normal cognitive abilities. They may have an encyclopaedic knowledge of topics that interest them. On the other hand, while they may possess a large vocabulary, they often have difficulty using it in social situations.

Finally, people with Asperger may experience sensory hyper- or hyposensitivity. In fact, hypersensitivity to noise and touch is often pronounced and can significantly affect concentration and involvement.

Attention-deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD)

Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can interfere with the learning process because they reduce the ability to concentrate and pay attention. People with ADD or ADHD may display inattentive, impulsive and/or hyperactive behaviours.

Brain injury (BI)

BI is damage to the brain resulting from a traumatic or non-traumatic event that can cause temporary, prolonged or permanent impairment in cognitive, emotional, behavioural or physical functioning.

Chronic health problems

Chronic health problems generally stem from a dysfunction in the internal organs of the cardiovascular, digestive or endocrine systems. They can include acquired immune deficiency syndromes, allergies, asthma, cancer, cerebral palsy, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, muscular dystrophy and sleep disorders.

Hearing impairment or deafness

Hearing impairment or deafness is defined by the extent of loss of functional hearing and by one’s reliance on visual communication. Some students who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing can read lips, while others use sign language to communicate. Other students use gestures, writing or interpreters. For a great majority, it’s common to use a variety of hearing devices to amplify sounds. Keep in mind that a hearing aid helps compensate for hearing loss but does not replace it.

Learning disability

Learning disabilities refer to a number of disorders that can hinder the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning. As such, learning disabilities are distinct from generalized intellectual disabilities.

Mobility impairment

A mobility impairment can be any condition that affects the ability to move, ranging from lack of coordination to complete paralysis. Mobility impairments can be caused by illness, injury or trauma at birth or in utero. The functional limitations arising from some conditions may be invisible (e.g., arthritis), while other limitations are easily noticeable (e.g., people using wheelchairs.). Paraplegia or quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, hemiplegia, loss or major functional impairment of a limb, and muscular dystrophy are among the many conditions that can result in mobility impairments.

Psychological or psychiatric condition

Psychological or psychiatric conditions are complex and multifaceted, with a range of inherent characteristics – chronic or short-term, moderate or severe – that cover a broad spectrum. The term psychological or psychiatric disabilities usually used to refer to persons with diagnoses such as severe anxiety, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), neurosis, schizophrenia, alcohol or drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, personality disorders, or phobias.

Speech or language impairment

Some people may experience communication difficulties because they have impaired speech or language use. These can stem from cerebral palsy, hearing loss or another condition that makes it difficult to pronounce words, causes slurring or stuttering, or prevents individuals from expressing themselves or understanding written or spoken language. Persons who have severe difficulties may use communication boards or other assistive devices.

Visual impairment or blindness

The definition for legal blindness may vary among countries. Millions of people have partial or complete loss of vision in Canada, where normal vision is defined as 20/20 and legal blindness is defined as worse than or equal to 20/200 with best correction in the better eye or a visual field extent of less than 20 degrees in diameter. Vision loss can be caused by eye problems that are present from birth, by conditions that appear later in life, or by infections or environmental factors.