SEN: Understanding Physical Needs and Inclusion

Child exercising

Throughout history, many social and cultural majorities have tended to reject, isolate, and exclude those with different physical needs. The Greeks and Romans would habitually abandon, or murder, children who did not ‘fit in’; the Tudors could find no value in the ‘helpless poor’; and the Victorians allowed many children with disfigurements to become circus exhibits. More enlightened and inclusive practices can certainly be found in 21st-century educational settings, but change has rarely kept pace with aspirations.

Diverse physical needs

Though an individual’s needs will always be specific and personal, Frederickson and Cline1 propose three useful categories of physical needs which mainstream educators may find useful when thinking about aspects of their own provision:
  • Severe physical disabilities: which include motor impairments associated with medical conditions such as cerebral palsy. These in turn can further influence many other aspects of child development.
  • Dyspraxia and development coordination disorder (DCD): can cause impaired motor coordination even when there is no underlying medical condition. Developmental delays are common – a feature which has broad implications for social development and educational advances.
  • Chronic and severe illness: because medical needs are prioritised, educational attendance and progress are disturbed. In addition, a child’s symptoms may impose limits on what can be achieved in a classroom setting.

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