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, behavior 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.

NHS Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland

Disability Sport NI

The Drake Music Project

Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust

Spina Bifida Hydrocephalous Ireland

Shine Charity

Neurological Alliance of Ireland

Muscular Dystrophy Campaign

Muscular Dystrophy Ireland


Great Ormond Street Hospital

Child Brain Injury Trust

The Encephalitis Society