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Five Disabilities to learn more about

Lauren Dietrich | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 8th, 2019

The World Health Organization defines disability as, “an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions”. According to Statistics Canada, 13.7 per cent of Canadians are living with a disability. There are several different classifications of disabilities and each individual is unique in their symptoms and traits. It is important that we as Canadians understand what disabilities are and how to support people that are living with a disability in our family, social, academic and professional lives. Here is an outline of five of the many disabilities that occur in individuals across the world.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to, one in 66 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) each year. Characteristics of people with severe autism can include cognitive disability, sensory problems and extreme repetitive and unusual behaviour. People with mild autism have characteristics less severe such as having difficulties forming relationships and personality differences. Asperger syndrome is generally considered a high functioning form of Autism and do not show difficulties in language or cognitive development. Individuals with Autism have a variety of strengths including reading skills, drawing skills, visual spatial abilities and a strong memory. According to, ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger and by age two a diagnosis is very reliable.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition where an individual has differences in brain development and activity. These differences can lead to a person with ADHD to be inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive. Statistics Canada reported findings from The Ontario Child Health Study which stated an ADHD prevalence of 6.1 per cent in Ontario. According to, ADHD symptoms can improve upon treatment, healthy diet, sleep, exercise and supports.

Down Syndrome

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down syndrome happens when someone has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Maternal age is the only factor that has been proven to be linked with Down syndrome, but the additional copy of the chromosome can come from the father or the mother. Diagnosis of Down syndrome can occur prenatally through tests or at birth by identifying the physical traits. The extra chromosome impacts the development of an individual and results in the common physical traits including low muscle tone, small structure and a slant to the eyes. Common behavioural issues that can occur in individuals with Down syndrome include wandering off, oppositional behaviour, attention problems, obsessive or compulsive behaviours and Autism Spectrum Disorder. According to the Government of Canada website, one in 750 babies in Canada has down syndrome.

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

According to Kids Health, there are three types of Cerebral Palsy including spastic, dyskinetic and ataxic. Spastic causes stiffness and difficulties moving, dyskinetic leads to movements that are involuntary or uncontrolled and ataxic leads to problems with balancing and depth perception. Common problems that can occur in individuals with CP include seizures, difficulties speaking and communicating and intellectual disabilities. There is no cure for CP as of yet but there are treatments that can help improve the quality of life such as therapy, medicine, surgery and braces. CP is generally caused by brain damage occurring during birth or within the first three to five years of an individual’s life. According to the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, there are currently 60,000 people with CP in Canada and approximately one in 500 babies are affected.

Cystic Fibrosis

According to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal genetic disease in Canada with one in every 3,600 child being born with CF. CF is genetic and occurs when two defective copies of the gene responsible for CF is passed on to the child from each parent. Some of the symptoms of CF include coughing, wheezing, chest infections, bowel disturbances and weight loss. Children are diagnosed with CF by a sweat test that checks to see the level of salt the child produces in their sweat. There is currently no cure for CF but there are treatments to help with symptoms. One important treatment is airway clearance to prevent chest infections and mucus build up in the lungs and improve lung function. A research report performed by Annals of Internal Medicine found that the life expectancy for individuals with CF is 10 years higher in Canada (50.9 years) compared to the United States (40.6 years).
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