Children With Developmental Challenges 3(2+1)

Lesson 30 : Severe/Multiple Disabilities in Children


  1. Medical Implications
    A variety of medical problems may accompany severe disabilities. Examples include seizures, sensory loss, hydrocephalus and scoliosis. These conditions should be considered when establishing school services. 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
  2. Educational Implications
    Early intervention programs, preschool and educational programs with the appropriate support services are important to children with severe disabilities. Educators, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists are all members of the team that may provide services, along with others, as needed for each individual.

Assistive technology: Assistive technology such as computers and augmentative/alternative communication devices and techniques, may provide valuable instructional assistance in the educational programs for students with severe/multiple disabilities.

Focus on different areas: In order to effectively address the considerable needs of individuals with severe and/or multiple disabilities, educational programs need to incorporate a variety of components, including language development, social skill development, functional skill development (i.e., self-help skills) and vocational skill development.

Services: Related services are of great importance, and the appropriate therapists (such as speech and language, occupational, physical, behavioral and recreational therapists) need to work closely with classroom teachers and parents.

Classroom arrangements: must take into consideration students' needs for medications, special diets or special equipment.

Adaptive aids and equipment enable students to increase their range of functioning. The use of computers, augmentative/alternative communication systems, communication boards, head sticks and adaptive switches are some of the technological advances which enable students with severe disabilities to participate more fully in integrated settings.

Integration with non-disabled peers is another important component of the educational setting. Attending the same school and participating in the same activities as their non-disabled peers are crucial to the development of social skills and friendships for people with severe disabilities.
Beginning as early as the elementary school years, community-based instruction is an important characteristic of educational programming. In order to increase the students ability to generalize (transfer) skills to appropriate situations, this type of instruction takes place in the actual setting where the skills will be used.
In light of the current Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the practice of supported employment, schools are now using school-to-work transition planning and working toward job placement in integrated, competitive settings rather than sheltered employment and day activity centers.


The curriculum for Severe and Multiple Disabilities should focus on the following areas:

  • Access to the general education curriculum should be available in early childhood and for school-aged children, with adaptations as needed.
  • Functional skills - activities of daily living skills (ADLs)
  • Self-care / personal skills
  • Age-appropriate skills
  • Communication skills
  • Motor skills
  • Social and play skills
  • Prepare for transition to adult living
Last modified: Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 9:42 AM