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Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
Caring for Our People with Disabilities & Chronic Illness

"Making life better!"

Picture of child in wheelchairORTHOPEDIC IMPAIRMENTS – impairment of movement, speech, vision, and muscle use caused by birth defects, injury or disease.

Actually, the dictionary definition of orthopedic is having to do with deformities of the skeletal system. If you are the federal government, though, you can make up your own definitions, since you control the budget. Some of the diagnoses that fall under this category really are not impairments of the skeletal system, for example, cerebral palsy.

Orthopedic impairments affect the motion and motor skills that we depend on every day of our lives. A physical disability may feel as if it takes away all independence, yet there is often a way to get through it and still live an active life.


Four of the more common physical disabilities are cerebral palsy, spina bifida, epilepsy and muscular dystrophy.

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects the brain’s ability to send messages to the body, thus affecting the use of muscles. Cerebral palsy is evident early in life, usually in the first year or two. Depending on the specific case, the disability can be mild to severe, and may be accompanied by mental disabilities. Because cerebral palsy affects muscle control, a person with this disability often has difficulty walking. A person with cerebral palsy may also have trouble speaking not due to mental retardation but rather because he or she cannot control well the muscles that produce speech. Physical therapy can be used to improve muscle control, in some cases. For more information on cerebral palsy, click here.

Spina Bifida is a disability that is present at birth. It occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord and the column does not close completely, causing an impairment of lower body movements and functions such as bladder/rectal troubles and even paralysis. As with cerebral palsy, there is a wide range in severity. For more information on spina bifida, click here.

Muscular dystrophy is not one disorder, but rather, a group of diseases. All of these diseases have in common that the muscles become weaker and waste away over time. Diseases like this are called degenerative or progressive diseases. In this, muscular dystrophy is different from cerebral palsy or spina bifida, which are disorders that do not become progressively worse. An enormous amount of information is available on this website from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

There are many other types of physical disabilities, for example, absence of limbs due to birth defects, accidents or illness, loss of muscle control as a result of stroke. Some of these disabilities may be present at birth and others, such as stroke, can occur at any time.

When disabilities are acquired later in life, the individual must adjust physically, mentally and socially to a life that may be changed very much from what he or she has been living. It is important for individuals with physical disabilities to be made aware of the opportunities and services available to lead independent and full lives.

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Newsletter on recreation and sports for people with physical disabilities

Newsletter on physical disabilities and health impairments acquired due to accident or illness.

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