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Orthopedic Impairment

The category of Orthopedic Impairment provides services for students with a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects their educational performance.

What is It?

boy in a wheelchair blowing bubbles

Orthopedic impairments are described as injuries or disorders of the skeletal system and the associated muscles, joints, and ligaments. They are often divided into three main categories to address potential problems and learning needs of the students affected. These categories are neuro-motor impairments, musculoskeletal disorders, and degenerative diseases. Orthopedic impairments affect the ability of a child to move, use, feel, or control certain parts of the body.

  • Examples of neuro-motor impairments include traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and spina bifida.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders include scoliosis, congenital disorders, results from accidents, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The most common degenerative disease is muscular dystrophy.


According to the U.S. Department of Education, 68,188 students receive special education services based on a classification of orthopedic impairments. This is roughly 1.1% of the 5,971,495 students that received special education services in 2003-2004.

How to Identify and Respond

Students with orthopedic impairments have usually already been diagnosed by the medical community through routine care as infants and young children. They are usually given assistive technology that helps them participate in activities such as canes, walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, or other specialized equipment. The level of intervention usually depends on the severity of the child’s condition, but devices available to help students access educational materials include: speech recognition software, screen reading software, communication devices, and academic software packages.

How to Prevent

To prevent orthopedic impairments, when possible, it is important to focus on health education, nutrition, and immunization. Raising awareness of the importance of cleanliness, medical care, and nutrition. Births can also be monitored to avoid conditions resulting from birth complications. Vaccinations from diseases such as polio are also a good preventative strategy.

References and Websites

United Kingdom