Physical Difficulties

A pupil’s physical disability or disabilities may be a result of illness or injury which may have short or long term consequence or it may arise from a congenital condition. Some pupils with physical disabilities may also have sensory impairments, neurological problems, behaviour problems and/or learning difficulties.

Cerebral Palsy

Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus

Muscular Dystrophy

There is a wide range of physical disabilities affecting pupils across the whole ability range. Pupils with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and/or hydrocephalus will all have a medical diagnosis.

Significant Accidental Injury

Pupils in this category include those who have physical disabilities as a result of significant accidental injury. They are being provided with special educational provision on a long term basis to assist then in accessing the curriculum and the school facilities.


Difficulty with:

  • Mobility
  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional well-being
  • Social skills.

General Strategies

  • If a pupil has difficulty moving about, the school will need to assess the extent to which classrooms and corridors are wheelchair friendly. Issues to consider include:
    • the layout of the classroom (aim to maximise space);
    • the position of the learner in the classroom – are resources accessible to him or her?
    • the best route from one area of the school to another (the shortest route may not be the easiest);
    • the time the learner needs to get from one area to another;
    • whether another learner should be asked to help push a wheelchair (if the user does not control it) or be available to lend a hand or carry a bag, etc; and
    • if the learner has a wheelchair, if he or she can transfer in and out of it – e.g. to sit at a desk, or lie on a PE mat.
  • Unless you have been properly trained, do not risk injury by lifting a pupil. Make sure you always have sufficient help on hand if lifting is necessary.
  • If a pupil’s hand control is weak, consider using:
    • jumbo pencils, wax crayons, thick felt pens, paintbrushes held in the teeth or velcro-ed to the hand;
    • non-slip mats or even sticky tape to hold paper, books, plates etc in place;
    • foam rubber around cutlery handles;
    • rimmed, rather than flat plates;
    • specially-adapted computer switches and concept keyboards; and
    • different ways of recording work, such as word-processing, talking into a tape-recorder, and dictating to a friend. 
  • Give the pupil time and opportunity to initiate and/or complete an activity he or she is carrying out as independently as possible. 
  • Use a buddy system.
  • Make use of ICT aids.