CETL — Disabilities Manual

Specific Types of Disabilities

Disabilities are described in a number of ways, depending on the perspective and the purpose of the analysis. Provided below are a few examples:

  • Asperger Syndrome is often considered an autism spectrum disorder. It is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and restricted, stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests. Students with Asperger syndrome may have difficulty with change in routine, an inability to recognize subtle difference in speech tone, and difficulty picking up on social cues.
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is considered to be a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness and inattention with or without the component of hyperactivity. Students with ADHD may have difficulty focusing, sitting through class and exams, difficulty following instructions and staying organized, and may be forgetful of daily activities.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder is a learning disability that makes it hard to differentiate between similar spoken words, to store what has been heard in long-term memory, to follow oral directions, and to comprehend abstract reasoning in lectures.
  • Autism is a neurological development disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Individuals with autism may have impaired social interactions and relationships, stereotyped and repetitive use of language, difficulty understanding their listener’s perspective, and limited interest in activities.
  • Cerebral Palsy describes a group of permanent disorders that affect body movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, and communication.
  • Crohn’s Disease is an ongoing disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. This swelling can cause pain in the affected area and can make the intestines empty frequently.
  • Deafness may result in varying degrees of hearing loss. Some students may only hear certain frequencies of sounds within a volume range; others may be profoundly deaf. Some students will use an American Sign Language interpreter in class to facilitate discussion.
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder is a disability that may affect a student’s performance in daily activities that require motor coordination. This may manifest itself in tasks that involve both small and large muscles including dropping things, "clumsiness," difficulty forming letters, and poor handwriting.
  • Dyscalculia is a learning disability that refers to difficulties in using numbers and math functions. Students may have problems with recognizing and remembering symbols, understanding spatial relationships, aligning numbers, and performing operations.
  • Dysgraphia is a learning disability associated with the psychomotor skills needed for writing. Students with dsygraphia may have writing that is illegible.
  • Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that refers to reading deficits that can include problems in decoding words, determining the meaning of a sentence, and/or remembering what has been read. It should be noted here that dyslexia does not refer to reading problems that are the result of inadequate or inappropriate schooling, lack of intelligence, or insufficient time on task.
  • Emotional Disorders can include anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, etc. Medication may affect student performance, or the condition itself may interfere with academic performance.
  • Multiple Sclerosis affects the ability of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with one another. Symptoms may include changes in sensation, muscle weakness, difficulty in moving, or difficulty with coordination and balance.
  • Recurring and Remitting Disorders are conditions that an individual may experience during episodes when a disabling disorder becomes present in their lives for a period of time. Examples of such conditions are sickle cell anemia, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
  • Seizure Disorder (Epilepsy) is a neurological disorder in which nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally. Seizures put an individual at risk for injuries, accidents, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy medication can also have side effects that impair a student’s academic functioning. These side effects may include blurred vision, headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and decreased energy level, mood, drive, and mental and motor speed on exams.
  • Temporary Disabilities are sometimes the result of an accident, surgery or medical condition.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the extent of damage.
  • Visual Disabilities are often divided into two categories: blindness and low vision. Individuals with visual disabilities may not be able to perform certain tasks in the classroom without accommodations.
  • Visual Learning Disabilities can cause problems in discriminating between similar letters, in copying shapes and figures, using computerized answer sheets, making sense of graphs and charts, lining up numbers in math problems, and taking notes from the board, the overhead, PowerPoint presentations, and the like.

It is worth noting that the experience of dealing with any disability may have serious consequences for self-esteem and confidence. In turn, students’ ability to initiate and maintain positive relationships with faculty members, staff, and other students may be affected. As with all students at this university, individuals displaying these concerns are unique and have individual needs. Thus, a one-size-fits-all approach for these situations is not recommended. The staff in The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is ready to assist instructors, students, and staff with these matters.