ERIC Identifier: ED371507
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and
Gifted Children Reston VA.
Severe Disabilities. ERIC Digest #311. Revised.
The classifications of severe handicaps, severe/profound impairments, or multiple disabilities are less than precise. Children so labeled present a complex picture: they might include those with diagnoses of mental retardation, schizophrenia, autism, or cerebral palsy. Further behavioral, sensory, or orthopedic problems may also be involved.
Mental retardation may be the central and single largest category represented
in severe disabilities. The more severe the retardation, the greater is the
chance for concomitant problems.
Children with severe disabilities used to be easily defined: they were those
children excluded from school on the basis of extensive mental, physical, and/or
behavioral impairments that were considered permanent in nature.
More recent efforts to define the population have emphasized the educational
considerations rather than static deficiencies. For some students, severe
disability may be a transitory condition during which the individual requires
frequent care, supervision, and/or assistance.
Baker (1979) put it this way:
The severely handicapped individual is one whose ability to provide for his
or her own basic life sustaining and safety needs is so limited, relative to the
proficiency expected on the basis of chronological age, that it could pose a
serious threat to his or her survival. (p. 60)
WHAT ARE SOME TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF INDIVIDUALS WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES?
Severely disabled individuals may exhibit one or
more of the following behaviors:
Failure to attend or relate to others.
Lack of self-care skills.
Lack of verbal communication skills.
Lack of basic physical mobility.
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF SEVERE DISABILITIES?
Students with severe disabilities are now attending local
schools. Some have been released from institutions, others from isolation at
home, and still others have been identified at birth and served in early
intervention programs. Whatever their avenue of approach, their arrival at
school brings unique issues to the fore, including:
The degree and quality of interaction between nondisabled and severely disabled
The increasing importance of a multidisciplinary approach with input from
occupational, physical, and speech/language therapists; nurses; audiologists;
psychologists; social workers; and pediatricians.
The need for a curriculum grounded in preliminary sensory motor stimulation and
subsequent stress on five major areas: motor, self-help, communication,
social/interpersonal, and cognitive skills.
The growing importance of prevocational/vocational training and leisure skills
development in the severely disabled student's life as he or she ages.
The need for arrangements made within the classroom setting to provide for
medication, dietary needs, and self-care requirements.
The use of technological advances, specifically computer applications and
electronic communication devices.
The advent of community living arrangements and the resulting stress on
programming for the greatest degree possible of independent living.
Severely disabled individuals do not learn as easily by incidental learning
as do less disabled and nondisabled persons. Therefore, instruction in even the
most basic skills must be carefully structured and planned.
Baker, D. B. (1979). "Severely handicapped:
Toward an inclusive definition." JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE SEVERELY
HANDICAPPED, 1979, 4(1), 52-65.
Finnie, N. R. (1975). "Handling the young cerebral palsied child at home."
New York: E. P. Dutton.
Haring, N. G., & Bricker, D. D. (Eds.). (1978). "Teaching the severely
handicapped (Vol. 3)." Columbus, OH: Special Press.
Jegard, S., Anderson, L., Glazer, C., & Witold, A. (1980). "A
comprehensive program for multi-handicapped children." Saskatoon, Canada: Alvin
Orelove, F. P., & Sobsey, D. (1987). "Educating children with multiple
disabilities: A transdisciplinary approach." Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Sailor, W., & Guess, D. (1983). "Severely handicapped students: An
instructional design." Burlington, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Stainback, S., & Stainback, W. (1980). "Educating children with severe
maladaptive behaviors." New York: Grune & Stratton.
Stainback, S., & Stainback W. (1985). "Integration of students with
severe handicaps into regular schools." Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional
Children/ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children.
Van Etten, G., Arkell, C., & Van Etten, C. (1980). "The severely and
profoundly handicapped: Programs, methods, and materials." St. Louis: C. V.
Walsh, S. R., & Holzberg, R. (Eds.). (1979). "Understanding and educating
the deaf blind/severely and profoundly handicapped." Springfield, IL: Charles C.
York, R. L., & Edgar, E. (Eds.). (1979). "Teaching the severely
handicapped (Vol. 4)." Columbus, OH: Special Press.
for Retarded Citizens
Association for the Severely Handicapped
Roosevelt Way, N.E.
for Special Education Technology
Council for Exceptional Children
Easter Seal Society
West Ogden Avenue
Research and Development Center
Cerebral Palsy Association
Penn Plaza, Suite 804
York, NY 10001