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Needs of Individuals with Disability


No one chooses to be disabled, and there is no one that cannot develop some form of disability regardless of age. Therefore, the debate about resources given to disability should not be reclaimed. Disability is that point in one life when their normal daily processes are interfered; disability can be temporary or permanent. But, regardless of the duration, disability requires special structures that ensure that disabled people continue to live normal lives as everyone else.

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The last two decades have been characterized by great improvements within the socioeconomic context among individuals living with disability. However, all these improvements are under threat of diminishing because of recent suggestions that the disability policy should be re-evaluated to minimize welfare benefits given to individuals with disability (Morris 2011). This paper aims to understand the current situation of individuals with disability, and the various ways through which their needs are met.

Understanding Disability

Whereas the concepts of illness, disability and behaviour are interrelated, they are very different. Illness is a medical condition that disrupts normal body processes. Behaviour is an individual’s way of doing things. Disability is a holistic term that includes “impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions” (World Health Organization 2015). Impairment affects the body function or body structure while activity limitation entails inability to perform a task and participation restriction is inability to interact with other people in a social context.

Therefore, disability affects more than one’s health. Disability is not an illness, but some illnesses are deemed a disability, for example, schizophrenia. Behaviour is used to check for red flags, such as, aberrant behaviour, which is an indicator of disability. It is this behaviour that led to the death of Baby P. Unfortunately, the social service agency was not able to detect this disturbing behaviour in those taking care of him.

Models of Disability

There are two models of disability:


Adopted from Verbrugge and Jette (1994)

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The medical model

According to Verbrugge and Jette (1994), different medical factors, for example, medications and biological body processes, trigger and manage the disablement process.

The medical model indicates that disability is individualized (Carson 2009). For example, a person’s inability to see, walk or hear is considered his/her disability. This model is also referred to as the personal tragedy model because no one wishes for an impaired body shape. This model dictates that disabled people as being incapable of leading a normal life; thus, they need intervention.

The social model

The social model highlights the facet of society to describe the position of disability. The social model emphasizes the essence of social factors to trigger and manage disability. According to this model, disabled people oppose the negative perceptions held by people that are attributed to the medical model. The social model highlights the effect of anti-discrimination groups and Act that represented the needs of disabled people.

The medical and social models differ greatly; whereas the medical model deems individuals with disability as incapable of engaging in societal activities, the social model is the converse.


According to the WHO (2015), Disabled people have the same health needs as normal people (not disabled). The perceptions of disability are different from one community to another, and the manner in which they have evolved over time in the different communities is different. Gradually, disability has been accepted in the contemporary communities, but this is not pegged on the communities’ financial resources or technical expertise (Munyi 2012).

It is important to note that past perceptions of disability still influence the current ones, to some extent. In some communities, disability is still considered a calamity and the people with disability are looked down upon, especially in third world countries (Munyi 2012). Often, children with disability are seen as a burden and are accorded less care.

The common perception of disability across the various communities is the fact that persons with disabilities are labelled “deviants rather than inmates by the society” (Munyi 2012). Munyi indicates that disability is burdening because disabled people have an array of needs that range from spiritual needs to individualized needs (2012).

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Influence of Law, Policy, Society and Culture

Prior to the 2012 Paralympics in London, the topic of disability was not one that people would easily joke about, but after the games, people saw a different dimension of disability they never knew existed (Bournemouth 2011). Technology has been used over the years to create automated wheelchairs to facilitate movement without the help of an assistant.

The current developments in support services for disabled people reinforce inclusion of disabled people in social and environmental activities led by non-disabled people. Organizations such as the Centres for Independent Living voices out the grievances of disabled people and such organizations help individuals with disability to lobby for change and disability-friendly policies.

Today, disabled people take part in global forums, something that did not happen in the past. In a world that reinforces policies and Acts that protect the rights of humanity, disabled people should be protected and policies developed in their interest should not be degraded.

People with disability have protested against the hostility and discrimination towards them that has existed for many years. As a result, different countries have different acts that aim at protecting the people with disability. In the UK, for example, there is the Equality Act. This Act aims at harmonizing all the anti-discrimination laws for individuals with disability to form one act.

According to the Government Equalities Office (2010), this Act influences the treatment given to individuals with disability by protecting individuals against the perception that they are disabled. It is true that individuals with disability are limited in different capacities, but they are not disabled because there have been individuals with disabilities holding high-profile office positions.

The agency handling Baby P’s case did not utilize the law to influence treatment given to the Baby due to lack of commitment and incompetency. The law, which is meant to protect individuals with special needs are seen to victimize them. Baby P’s mother can be considered unstable; hence, instead of being convicted, she required a support service to restore her identity. According to the case study, the threshold to solicit for application of the law was not achieved.


Despite the fact that individuals with disabilities have restrictions on various dimensions due to their nature, they have the same needs as those of normal individuals. The needs outlined by Bradshaw for a normal population, also prevail for individuals with disability. Bradshaw outlined four types of social needs: normative, felt, and comparative and expressed needs. Normative needs are different for different individuals with disabilities based on the disability.

For example, a person with mobility impairment has a different normative need from an individual with visual impairment; the person with mobility impairment may require a wheelchair to aid in movement while the person with visual impairment requires Braille typewriters and Braille literature.

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Expressed needs are those needs of disabled individuals that are evident to society, for example, a person with dysfunctional lower limbs and not able to walk requires a wheelchair in the same way a teacher will reiterate information for students with cognitive impairment to follow (National Organization on Disability 2005).

Felt needs emerge from an individual’s perception and knowledge. The obvious felt need for all disabled people is to be accepted in society.

As a result of the negative perceptions towards disabled people that are still evident in how normal people treat disabled people, it is no wonder that there have been forums and conferences where disabled people have raised their voices, demanding for respect and equal treatment. Comparative need is very imperative in the case of individuals with disabilities because it helps to detect impairment early enough; thereby, plan for effective intervention like in the case of autism or cerebral palsy (Public Health Action Support Team 2011).

Difference in needs assessment stems from the objective of the assessment and individuals’ backgrounds. Individuals with visual impairment have different needs from those of individuals with hearing impairment; thus, assessment processes and results are entirely different. This has an implication on care delivery because it calls for a dynamic model for use when caring for individuals with disabilities.

In reference to Baby P in the case study, it is just a matter of negligence and abandonment of duties that led to the Baby’s death. In addition, the health care never carried out the needs assessment appropriately, and the institution being a social service, lack of adequate resources to meet the needs of the high number of caseloads might be a probable cause for the poor care given to Baby P (National Association of Social Workers 2011).

The social services agency that attended to Baby P was not competent enough because they were not able to incorporate all the requirements needed to build a case in court. In addition, the doctor attending to Baby P under the jurisdiction of the social agency failed to detect some vital physical elements that showed abuse.

The social agency failed to get to the root cause of abuse against Baby P. Baby P’s mother might have had a disability of some sort; but the social agency handling Baby P’s case failed to help the carer regain her senses and take up Baby P’s responsibility.

Attempts to meet the needs of individuals with disability, and especially children, prompted the development of the green paper in 2010. This paper aims at promoting equality, and in the case of children with special needs, it emphasizes the need for extra support services (Gillie 2010).

Children with special needs, for example, in the education sector needs a holistic approach when receiving care; thus, involvement of the family is believed to have a positive outcome. The Amy’s House is among the several organizations in Sheffield that aim at harbouring children between the ages 5 and 18 with special needs. The organization ensures that the children are in a safe environment that promotes growth and learning.

The care given to these children is free of any bias because the carers are taught about effective ways of meeting the needs of these children. The organization offers individualized care to the children so that quality services prevail. The care given at Amy’s House ensures that all the needs of the special needs are addressed, and in this case, it is difficult to overlook any dimension of the children’s needs (Amy’s House 2015).

Children with disability have diverse needs that affect their ability to learn, while the quality of life of adults is affected by disability. It is possible to avoid the long-term effects of disability through the right interventions. The needs of children with disability outlined above require different interventions to encompass their education, and social and health lives.

These interventions have evolved over time as demands from human rights activists strive to ensure that all people, regardless of their disability and social orientation, are given equal opportunities to access resources and live a normal life. Nonetheless, special rights for disabled people are developed as a tool to always remind normal people that these individuals should not be considered a liability.

These special needs are varied, and include antisocial behaviour, dyslexia, poor comprehension of things, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and physical impairment.

Support Individuals with Special Needs

The formation of support groups is beneficial to parents having children with various special needs, and especially for first time parents. Support groups help the different parents to exchange experiences and learn how to overcome challenges as they emerge.

Some conditions, for example, Down’s syndrome require special skills and these support groups will help parents exchange ideas on how to effectively address the needs of such children. Support groups serve the function for which they are named: to give members the morale by encouraging each other through sharing personal experiences.

SENCO is regarded as an ideal point of support for children with special educational needs (Children with special educational needs 2015). This support framework is systematic in the sense that different children based on their ages receive different kinds of support.

According to the SENCO support system, children under the age of five years are monitored for both social development and health status. Provisions, for example, tactile signs, are made to aid children with disability (Children with special educational needs 2015). Children between 5 and 15 years

Different health conditions associated with disability require different health-related interventions. Medications can be administered to such individuals, but they are not deemed safe and effective. Children with special health needs have access to a specialist health visitor, who is supposed to empower families on how they can deal with health challenges of children with special health needs, for example, Down’s syndrome.

The emotional health of children with special needs is mainly affected because they are often segregated. Children with special needs face rejection from their peers, who still do not understand the concept of special needs. As a result, these special children are lonely, and their nature aggravates the negative perception they hold against their peers leading to adverse emotional consequences. Health care providers and teachers have the responsibility of ensuring that normal children develop a positive reception towards special needs children.

Different social programmes are available, and through this programmes children and individuals with disability receive aid. In addition, the different policies available ensure that institutions and society respect and protect these people instead of disregarding them (Children with special educational needs 2015). However, there is need for continued efforts to reinforce these policies because disparity in treatment between disabled and normal people stills exists.

Early intervention support services for autistic children have had a positive impact on their development. Early intervention helps the carers of these children to learn about the different ways of dealing with children of special needs early enough so as to create a favourable atmosphere that fosters improved interaction with the external environment (Goode, Diefendorf & Colgan 2011).

The different educational, social and health care interventions offered to individuals with special needs are very effective in promoting positive living and improving the quality of life of these individuals. Educational approaches enhance learning by creating a safe and friendly environment.

Normal children gain information that translates into a positive attitude towards their fellow students with disabilities, and they unite to learn together. In addition, these approaches enable students to keep up with the pace of learning of the normal students because teachers use strategies targeting the special needs students. The early intervention service prevents locking out children in need of social programmes.

Challenging Behaviour

Challenging behaviour is bizarre behaviour that individuals with disability portray. Several terms are used to replace this behaviour, for example, abnormal behaviour or disturbed behaviour (Burton 2001). Challenging behaviour presents a huge challenge for individuals taking care of the disabled people.

Challenging behaviour includes behaviours like self-injurious behaviour or antisocial behaviour. Individuals with disability engage in challenging behaviour as a way of communicating. Different concepts are used to explain this behaviour:

Pre-scientific Principles

A current series, the Dome, applies the principle of pre-scientific principle to explain its theme of challenging behaviour. Burton 2001 indicates that a person’s soul, stars or bodily characteristics influence a person’s behaviour. Pre-scientific concepts mainly involve the spiritual world and stereotypes that explain phenomenon.

Social Construction

The meaning and understanding associated with challenging behaviour, to some extent, stems from socially constructed traits. These traits include cultural norms and values that influence a person’s ability to understand this behaviour. Culture shapes individuals’ identity, perceptions and attitudes. Hence, the challenging behaviour will be considered to be that which deviates from what the culture deems normal.


This principle dictates that challenging behaviour is attributed to some disabling conditions or some biological factors, not associated with the disabling condition. Burton (2011) indicates the example of epilepsy as a disabling condition that can or cannot have an underlying biological factor, for example, poor supply of oxygen in the brain.

It is very difficult to help an individual with challenging behaviour because this behaviour always interferes with the intervention process.

Various strategies can be adopted to enable individuals with challenging behaviour adopt better means of expressing their opinions and emotions. Therefore, teaching them new skills of communication is paramount. For example, these people can be asked to run as much as they want if they are angry as a way of expending the negative energy.

Individuals portraying challenging behaviour should be given prompt treatment because inability to deal with pain may result in problematic behaviour. Carers need to liaise with experts of challenging behaviour among individuals with disabilities so that they are able to decipher the causative factors (Social Care Institute for Excellence 2011).


Amy’s House 2015, Support and care for children with special needs and their families.

Burton, M 2001, Understanding and responding to behavioural challenges: An investigative approach. Manchester Learning Disability Partnership, Manchester.

Carson, G 2009, The social model of disability. Scottish accessible information forum.

Case Study. Baby P. Learning Resource.

Children with special educational needs, 2015.

Gillie, C 2010, Historical note: special educational needs (SEN): the system, recent reports and reviews.

Government Equalities Office 2010, Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know? Disability Quick Start Guide.

Goode, S, Diefendorf, M & Colgan, S 2011, The importance of early interventions for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

Morris, J 2011, Rethinking disability policy, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Munyi, C 2012, ‘Past and Present Perceptions Towards Disability: A Historical Perspective’, Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 2.

National Association of Social Workers 2011, Social workers in social services agencies: occupational profile.

National Organization on Disability 2005, Emergency preparedness initiative: Guide on the special needs of people with disabilities for emergency managers, planners & responders.

Public Health Action Support Team 2011, Concepts of Need and Social Justice.

Social Care Institute for Excellence 2011, At a glance 37: challenging behaviour: a guide for family carers on getting the right support for adults.

Verbrugge, L & Jette, A 1994, The disablement process’, Social science & medicine, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 1-14.

World Health Organization 2015, Disabilities.

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