Motor deficit

Teaching of students with mobility difficulties

Students with motor disabilities represent more than a third part, 36% of the total, of students with disabilities attending higher education according to the "White Paper on University and Disability".

They are those cases in which the locomotor system is affected . The heterogeneity of situations is greater even if it is possible than in previously described cases. Despite this great diversity of types, motor disability can be defined as an "alteration of movement capacity that implies, to varying degrees, the functions of displacement and/or manipulation, speech or respiration, which limits the person in their personal and social development." They are usually the consequence of spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophies, sclerosis, etc.


General features

In order to understand and classify motor disability, we must always take into account: the moment in which the alteration occurs (congenital or acquired), the duration (temporary or permanent), its evolution (degenerative or non-degenerative), the existence or not of remnants of movements (paralysis or paresis) and the topographic location (in which part of the body the lesion is located)

The motor deficiencies encompass a series of common difficulties that can be classified into: displacement problems, manipulative problems and communication problems (disorders in the development of speech and language) both in their receptive and expressive aspects. By combining these three factors and at very different levels, we can find a wide range of possibilities that range from totally autonomous subjects to fully dependent subjects.

If we stick only to displacement problems we could establish two large groups:

  • Semi-moving people who move using the help of a cane or a crutch.
  • People who cannot move without the help of a wheelchair, either manual or electric.

Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida are the most common ones when teaching.

Teaching also requires several types of adaptations like:

  • When accessing rooms and basic security considerations
  • When taking notes and the normal monitoring of the general rhythm of the class
  • In the time and exams’ type and/or evaluation tests
  • When accessing information and communication

Particularly, it should be noted that it will be convenient to have an accurate assessment of the degree of autonomy and personal resources and support products that the student has to adjust the times in practices and examinations.



Practical example

Students with motor disorders have different pathologies that can affect upper limbs, lower limbs or both; to certain movements or gestures, to the ability to manipulate or to ambulate, and to the communicative ability (in cases where speech production is affected).

In the cases of people with reduced mobility we will take into account the person and the context.

  • The student's motor skills have to be specified through a functional assessment
  • The context has to be studied by specialists with the administrators of the place and the student

Among the deficiencies that are usually known in universities we can find tetraplegia or paraplegia (often caused by accidents), cerebral palsy (anoxia at the time of delivery), Duchenne Syndrome (video explaining Duchenne Parent Project Spain), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (as in the case of Dr. Stephen Hawking), spina bifida, tumors affecting the central nervous system, amputations,

In many cases it is necessary the participation of a third person to perform academic tasks or related to activities of daily life.


Curricular adaptation strategies. The relationship in the classroom

Take precautions about the physical space where teaching is to be developed, always offering a collaborative attitude to solve the needs that arise in the activities in which the participation of the student is compromised.

  • Design environments, activities and elements in the simplest way, free of effort and accessible as possible. Thus, eliminate the need to cover long distances, to transport or handle objects, to procure wide spaces in which you can walk with a wheelchair or crutches.
  • Be attentive to the user's abilities, stay within their visual field, be placed at eye level if the conversation extends several minutes.
  • Allow adapted furniture and support products that you normally use for the classes (taking notes, carrying out exercises, etc.)


Curricular adaptation strategies. The examination tests

Depending on the degree of affectation and the limitation of movements, it will be necessary to adapt spaces (classrooms, buildings, laboratories) and examination tests. Allowing the use of adapted furniture.

  • Usually the conventional PC is assisted with software and hardware that facilitate access to it (input devices) but also in some cases communication (output devices, such as speech synthesis, symbolic communicators, etc.). Thus the tests have to adapt to the characteristics of the PC, in the case that this is the preferred or most suitable way.
  • The oral exams are another way of evaluation.
  • In general, they need more time to perform all kinds of activities, depending on the degree of fine hand skills and language impairment.