Some say that ignorance is a blessing. There are times that the previous statement could really be true but when it comes to subjects such as the subject of human growth and development, authorities and the whole community could not afford to be ignorant anymore especially if the population we are talking about are the disabled adolescents. These are people whose future are still bright because of the hopes and faith they got. Their future is depended on the communities’ and the experts’ perception about disability.
This paper will focus on the different aspects of development and disability among adolescents and the relationships and connections between the three.
The Physical Developmental Stage
Every person grows and develops differently. This makes analyzing topics related to human growth and development complex. There are also a lot of models created by several authors that describes the different stages of development. One aspect which will be the focus of this literature review would be physical development. According to PBS (2012), physical development starts from the first year of birth and could continue up to their late adolescent stage. Again, it is crucial to know that growth and development rates vary. Humans develop their motor skills from the simples of all movements up to the biggest ones as they grow. Physical development refers to changes in fine and gross motor skills of an individual over a set amount of time. Development of the five senses could also be included under the physical development category.
Disability on the other hand refers to a problem how a body system or just a specific part of the body works. Disabilities could either be acquired or congenital in nature and actually has a lot of categories. Some common examples of physical developmental disabilities are nervous system, sensory-related, metabolic and degenerative disorders (NICHD, 2011). It is evident that disability could have significant effects on one’s growth and development especially for individuals in their adolescent stage.
Review of Related Literatures
One study that tackles the relationship between disability and development is the study of Solar (2011). The aim of their research was to determine the possible factors that affect the process of learning of students with disabilities. Another aim of the study was to educate the secondary and primary schools in the community on how to build trusting and positive relationships with their students who have disability. This research is significant because according to past literatures, students with disabilities are often victims of trauma and violence because of their instructor’s fears, labels and prejudices. Adolescents are usually experienced by their high demand for attention and communication. The adolescent stage is actually a continuation stage wherein we further develop our personalities, usually to be able to blend to the environment where we leave. However, for children with disabilities, their disability might hinder such development (social development) because people usually try to stay away from disabled individuals. This is not the right thing that’s supposed to happen.
This could affect their learning and comprehension negatively and that’s the very reason why there is a need to address such problems. Students with disability actually crave their instructors’ and other people’s respect and acceptance (Solar, 2011). One of the methods that the researcher recommended is to create a safe classroom environment for adolescents with a developmental disability.
Adolescents usually experience a lot of changes both physically and mentally. This paper will however focus on the physical developments and the different effects of disability towards one’s growth and development.
Disability’s Effect on Adolescents’ Sexual Development
Adolescents with disabilities, regardless of the type of disability they have, are sexual persons. There are currently several issues that describe the possible effects of disability on adolescents’ normal sexual development. Some of the changes that an adolescent experiences include, development of breast buds, appearance of hair in the armpit and pubis, the beginning of the menstrual period and a rapid height growth for girls. For adolescent males on the other hand, they could experience changes in their testicles and scrotum. They could also experience increased rate of hair growth on their pubic and armpit area just like in females. There are only few disabilities that could have impact on adolescents’ sexual development and such disorders are usually rare.
A good scenario wherein the sexual needs and development of an individual may be hindered by his or her disability comes when we talk about taking care of the genitals. Adolescents both male and female require and deserve appropriate gynecologic care. With a mental disability for example, the need for regular and proper reproductive organ care could be neglected. Females’ adolescents are usually the ones who could be affected because they require more intensive and more frequent care practices for their genitals, especially during menstruation (Murphy & Elias, 2006). Murphy and Elias’ study have also included different aspects of sexual development that could be affected with disability such as their awareness regarding their reproductive capabilities both for males and females. Usually, female adolescents with mental and neuromuscular disabilities do not know that they are capable of reproducing until they already gave birth to a newborn. Options at this point could vary but one of the options that Murphy and Elias recommended is the act of sexually educating disabled adolescents. This would limit the effects of their disability on their sexual development. Open discussion could actually be key to address the sexual problems that adolescents with disability experience. Both parents and pediatricians could contribute to such process which is actually a good thing.
Effect of disability in Physical Development
Adolescence is marked by several changes in an individual’s behavior, physical characteristics. Unseen changes such as hormonal changes could also be present and is actually a normal process that occurs simultaneously with physical development.
Spinal cord injuries are the common causes of physical disabilities. Physical disabilities could really affect an adolescent’s physical development. A common effect of having a physical or motor related injury is muscle tightness and worse, contracture (Vanderhoff, 2008). Once a muscle has developed contractures due to poor development secondary to immobilization (spinal cord injury patients are usually immobilized). Without proper exercise, the already maturing bones and muscles of adolescents would not be able to fully develop because of lack of exercise because an immobilized muscle will surely lead to contractures. Bones development could also be affected. According to statistics, bone growth for males stops at 21 and for females at 18 when the growth plates on their long bones have already ossified. Poor stress on the bones could be a cause of osteoporosis later in their life because according to Wolf’s law, a bone will lose density if it can’t be subjected to enough stress over a certain period of time.
In Lee et al.’s (2010) research about spinal cord injury in adolescents, they were able to conclude the effects of being bed ridden for a couple of months or more due to immobilization brought about by paralysis—paralysis is often associated with spinal cord injuries. X ray scans of the bones have shown lower bone densities and ranges of motion tests have also shown significant loss of ROM on the major joints of their subject’s body. Without regular exercise and simple use of the muscles, adolescents with spinal injuries could really develop contractures and have lower bone densities later in their life.
PBS. (2012). Physical development. PBS.org. Accessed January 2012. Available at http://www.pbs.org/wholechild/abc/physical.html.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2011). Developmental Disabilities. Nichd. Accessed January 2012. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/developmentaldisabilities.html.
Solar, E. (2011). Prove them wrong. United States: Teaching Exceptional Children Journal. Print.
West, E., & Patton, H. (2010). Postive behaviour support and supported employment for individual with severe disability. Journal of Intellectual and developmental disability. Print.
Darrah, J., Magill, J., & Galambos, N. (2010). Community services for young adults with motor disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation. Print.
Carter, E., Trainor, A., Ditchman, N., Swedeen, B., & Owens, L. (2011). Community-Based summer work experiences of adolescents with high incidence disabilities. Journal of Special Education. Print.
Murphy, N., & Elias, E. (2006). Sexuality of Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities. Journal of pediatrics. Print.
Vanderhoff, B. (2007). Conn’s Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier.
Lee, B., Cripps, R., Woodman, R., Biering, F., wing, P., Campbell, R., Noonan, V., Wang, D., Stander, J., Lee, B., & Harrison, J. (2010). Development of an international spinal injury prevention program for adolescents. Spinal Medicine Department of wales. Print.