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Types of disabilities

The following table provides an overview on broad and specific types of disabilities, specific conditions or causes, as well as signs to look for that may indicate when you are working with a person with disability:


Type of disability                                                                       


Example Disability Diagnoses                                                                                        

What can cause this disability Signs to look for
  • Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder             
  • Acquired Brain Injury          
  • Developmental or learning delay        
  • Brain injury before, during or after birth
  • Abnormalities of chromosomes or genes
  • Premature birth
  • Drug or alcohol misuse during pregnancy
  • Difficulty understanding concepts or instructions.
  • Difficulty learning new skills.
  • Difficulty problem solving.
  • Difficulty putting tasks or events in order as applicable to their age.
  • Challenging behaviours
  • Bi-Polar
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

The exact causes are unknown, however psychiatric illness can be due to:

  • Genetic factors
  • Biological factors
  • Psychological factors
  • Environmental factors

Substance use and trauma can also make a person vulnerable to a psychiatric disability.

  • Sudden drop in school or work performance.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Severe phobias.
  • Disorganised / erratic speech.
  • Self-harming.
  • Obsessive thoughts or behaviours.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • A feeling that they must do a particular action or something bad will happen.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
  • Delusions/ hallucinations                       
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Attention Deficient Disorder (ADD)
There is still no conclusive research as to what causes Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder.
  • Difficulty recognising and interpreting others’ emotions or body language.
  • Difficulty maintaining focus or paying attention.
  • Difficulty processing meaning from written text, even when able to read well.
  • Challenging behaviours.
  • Limited short term memory.
  • Blindness and vision impairments
  • Deafness and hearing impairments
  • Genetic conditions
  • Degenerative conditions
  • Ageing
  • Doesn’t react to lights going on or off.
  • Doesn’t respond when called.
  • Limited speech and language skills for their age.
  • Appears cross eyed.
  • Stands very close to the TV.
  • Seems clumsy.
  • Holds things close to their face to see them.
  • Tilts or turns head when listening.
  • Epilepsy
  • Acquired Brain Injury
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Damage to the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.
  • Severe fatigue or physical weakness.
  • Tremors.
  • Speech difficulties.
  • Poor motor skills.
  • Seizures.
  • Involuntary repetitive movements or vocalisations.
  • Amputation
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • May exist from birth
  • Medical condition
  • Accident or illness
  • Exaggerated reflexes.
  • Rigidity of limbs.
  • Muscular weakness or ‘floppiness’.
  • Delays reaching milestones like rolling, grabbing and releasing, walking, running, jumping.
  • Hunched posture.
  • Cramps.
  • Excessive health complications.
  • Clumsiness.


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