Multiple disabilities

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Multiple disabilities is a term for a person with several disabilities, such as a sensory disability associated with a motor disability.

Depending on the definition, a severe intellectual disability may be included in the term "multiple disabilities". Individual usually has more than one significant disability, such as movement difficulties, sensory loss, and/or a behavior or emotional disorder.

At times, in common usage "Multiple disability", "spasticity" and "cerebral palsy" are used interchangeably. The term is widely used to connote mental disability and is accepted for usage in medical fraternity as well as in social life. Many organizations known as "Spastic Societies" viz. Spastic Society of Gurgaon are working in different areas in India as charitable bodies for people with cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation and multiple disabilities in care-taking, rehabilitation and medical support of children with such neurological muscular development disabilities. Similar organizations are also working very effectively in U.K, U.S.A, Australia and some other developed countries.


People with severe or multiple disabilities may exhibit a wide range of characteristics, depending on the combination and severity of disabilities, and the person’s age. There are, however, some traits they may share, including:


  • May Feel ostracized
  • Tendency to Withdraw from society
  • Students with multiple disabilities may become fearful, angry, and upset in the face of forced or unexpected changes.
  • May execute self-injurious behavior


  • May display an immature behavior inconsistent with chronological age
  • May exhibit an impulsive behavior and low frustration level
  • May have difficulty forming interpersonal relationships
  • May have limited self-care skills and independent community living skills


  • A variety of medical problems may accompany severe disabilities. Examples include seizures, sensory loss, hydrocephalus, and scoliosis.
  • May be physically clumsy and awkward
  • May be unsuccessful in games involving motor skills

(See also characteristics for students with visual impairment, hearing impairment, orthopedic impairment, autism, and speech/language impairment.)



  • A variety of medical problems may accompany severe disabilities. Examples include seizures, sensory loss, hydrocephalus,and scoliosis. Time is needed to ensure their safety at home in times of condition like seizures.
  • Financially, the medical/transport fees may place burdens on the family.
  • The effort needed to ensure safety of the person will require family members to take turns to look after that person.
  • Individuals have only limited speech or communication
  • Requires a lot of patience with individuals with multiple disabilities


  • Difficulty in basic physical mobility
  • May experience fine-motor deficits that can cause penmanship problems
  • May have slow clerical speed.
  • May tend to forget skills through disuse
  • May have trouble generalizing skills from one situation to another
  • May lack high level thinking and comprehension skills
  • May have poor problem-solving skills
  • Ability to engage in abstract thinking is limited
  • May be poor test taker due to limiting factors of the disabilities
  • May have difficulty locating the direction of sound
  • May have speech that is characterized by substitution, omissions
  • May have difficulty learning about objects and object relationships
  • May lack maturity in establishing career goals
  • May face problems in socializing with peers


  • A multi-disciplinary team consisting of the student’s parents, educational specialists, and medical specialists in the areas in which the individual demonstrates problems should work together to plan and coordinate necessary services.
  • Involvement of the appropriate professionals (E.g. occupational therapists, speech/language therapist etc.)
  • The arrangement of places school and homes must be easily accessible.
  • Have a buddy system that ensures their needs are heard and that they get aid when needed.
  • Give Simple and Specific and Systematic instructions to what you exactly want the person to do.
  • Use visual aids when communicating with the child.
  • Engage the child regularly in oral language activity.