Developmental disorders and physical disabilities

What is Developmental disorders and physical disabilities?

Developmental disorders and physical disabilities are mental and physical defects caused by congenital or acquired factors, which in turn affect intelligence, limb or trunk functions, resulting in various degrees of impairment in language, self-care and behaviour.


Developmental disorders may be caused by a combination of congenital or acquired factors.

Congenital factors:

      • Genetic abnormality: Recessive abnormal genes or gene mutation from parents during gene combination.
      • Embryonic dysplasia during pregnancy: Dysplasia in foetus, exposure to alcohol or prohibited drugs during pregnancy, and maternal infection are possible causes of developmental disorders.

Acquired factors:

      • Acquired infection/ trauma: Cerebral hypoxia and head trauma during/ after delivery may cause damage to the brain, leading to related disorders. Infants who suffer from serious infections like meningitis or encephalitis are also more likely to develop developmental disorders.
      • Environmental factors: Malnutrition, negligence of care-givers and long-term exposure to toxin/ heavy metals are also risk factors for developmental disorders.


Intellectual disability
This is characterised by significant limitations in global intellectual development, including difficulties in learning, reasoning, paying attention, language and coordination. Daily activities and social skills are also limited.

Dystonia :
Sustained or repetitive muscle contraction, resulting in twisted or abnormal postures. Movement is usually involuntary and could not be relaxed voluntarily.

Epilepsy or seizure:
There are focal and generalised seizures. During a seizure attack, the effect varies from involuntary shaking movements in some parts of body to shaking of the whole body and loss of consciousness. Loss of bladder control occurs in some cases.

Impaired physical abilities:

Due to hypoplasia or trauma of the brain, primary motor cortex and pre-motor cortex may be damaged, which affect voluntary control of limbs. Dystonia prevents the muscles from contracting and relaxing voluntarily, which can lead to contracture over time and affect mobility.

Other neurological symptoms:

Different diagnoses of development disorders may show varying signs and symptoms. Some common symptoms include declined cognitive functioning, impaired sensory functions, pain, muscle weakness, migraine, sleeping disorders, limb tremor etc.

Related health issues:

    • Some people with developmental disorders and physical disabilities have to use wheelchairs daily on a long-term basis. People with deformities and contractures caused by congenital diseases have difficulties in maintaining a good seating posture. Improper seating posture would lead to further spinal deformity and back pain, which may affect their respiratory functions.
    • Poor seating posture may induce pressure ulcers on the sacrum, coccyx, ischial tuberosity or other pressure points.
    • Unstable gait pattern is a common problem due to hypertonicity, poor balance and deterioration of muscle strength etc. Some people diagnosed with neurological disorders may also be prone to seizure or epilepsy. The risk of falling is high for these people.
    • Patients will also have difficulties in using ordinary utensils for feeding because of their impaired oral motor, swallowing, upper limb or fine motor functions.



Limb function training: Improve or maintain the range of motion for joints by prescribing active or passive exercises. Using neuro-developmental therapy supported by suitable equipment and manual skills can improve motor functions.

Occupational therapy

Assistive devices and training: Prescribe suitable aids to improve performance in daily activities.

Walking aids and training

People with developmental disorders and physical disabilities are usually unable to walk without aids. Prescription of suitable walking aids allows them to maximise their mobility status.

Cognitive training

Through different table games/tasks, computerised training programs, cognitive function such as memory, attention and execution can be improved/ maintained.

Sensory integration training

Using different sensory stimuli can help to tackle behavioural problems arising from sensory integration defects and adjust appropriate responses to daily sensory stimuli.

Training on activities of daily living (ADL)

Educate and train ADL skills for safe and effective feeding, dressing, toileting and bathing.

Prosthetics and Orthotics

Custom seating: People with developmental and physical disabilities are usually unable to use ordinary chairs. The risks of pressure injuries are also high due to prolonged seating. A custom-made seating system is able to provide enough support and reduce the risks of developing pressure ulcers.


Other Targeted Service Users

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)


Chronic Pain

Spinal Cord Injury

Parkinson’s Disease


Traumatic Brain Injury

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