Physical disabilities are severe orthopedic impairments that influence a child’s gross motor (large muscles) development and/or fine motor (small muscles) development. Physical disabilities often have a negative influence on a young child’s ability to participate with other children in social or educational settings. In the United States, physical disabilities are referred to as “orthopedic impairments” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). This entry provides information about categories of physical disabilities found in young children, the types of support young children with physical disabilities need, and how children in early childhood settings are served through interdisciplinary teams of professionals.

Categories of Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities can be divided into three main categories. These include (1) neuromotor differences, (2) musculoskeletal disabilities, and (3) degenerative disorders.

Neuromotor Differences

Neuromotor ...

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