Understanding physical disability and health care needs

​​Some people experience a physical disability or health care concern that may affect their body movement or control. This can impact their ability to learn and take part in daily school life.

If your child has a physical disability, it’s important to remember that schools provide extra support so they can learn, achieve and join in. This is a key part of inclusive education. 

All children grow and learn at different rates and have a unique set of strengths and challenges. Teachers track your child’s learning and support needs and can work with you to put in place any reasonable adjustments they may need at school.

Physical conditions may include, but are not limited to:

  • cerebral palsy
  • cystic fibrosis
  • spina bifida
  • muscular dystrophy
  • amputations and loss of limbs
  • epilepsy.

Every child experiences different signs and symptoms. You should talk to your child’s medical or health practitioner about any concerns. Their advice will also help the school meet your child’s physical or health support needs.

How your child’s abilities may affect their education

A physical condition may affect your child’s:

  • mobility – for example, how they move around the school or take part in school excursions
  • access – for example, how they use equipment such as computers and lab appliances or play sports.

Some children may also experience a learning difficulty. This can be caused by things like:

  • missing lessons because of medical treatment or ill-health
  • the effects of a brain injury.

Meeting your child’s health care needs at school

If your child needs support during school hours, the school – with help from you – will make a plan for delivering that support.

This may include:

  • a student health support plan
  • specific condition support arrangements.

Health support plan

A health support plan explains how you and the school will work together to support your child’s health care needs. It may include details about:

  • routine health care needs such as taking medication
  • personal care support such as eating and drinking or using health-related equipment
  • emergency care needs such as first aid in relation to asthma, seizures or diabetes.

The plan is guided by medical advice from your child’s medical practitioner or health professionals.

You'll need to share this advice with the school. If the school wishes to speak to your child’s medical practitioner for help making the plan, they'll ask for your permission.

When you share your child’s medical information with their school, they'll:

  • update your child’s file
  • share the details with relevant staff so they can give support to your child when needed.

Health support plans are reviewed every year, or if:

  • your child’s needs change
  • you, your child or the school is concerned about the support 
  • there are changes to the support.

For students with complex medical needs, the health support plan will assign staff to give care, and make sure that relevant staff training is completed to meet your child’s health needs.

If the school needs to apply for extra help – for example to help with complex medical care – they may ask you to:

  • give them a recent copy (no more than 12 months old) of your child’s medical report – speak to your child’s medical practitioner about this
  • sign consent forms and application forms.

For an Easy English version of health support plans, see:

Specific condition support arrangement

As well as a student health support plan, the school may also put specific support arrangements into place for children with certain conditions like:

  • anaphylaxis
  • asthma
  • diabetes
  • epilepsy.

These will include the signs, symptoms and key actions in times of high risk or an emergency.