5 Research - disabilities (p. 208)

Disability comes in many different forms. Some conditions attack the nerves, like Gretchen’s, for example. Others damage the muscles, brain, blood or bones. Sit in pairs and read through the list below. Make sure you know what each of the disabilities is called in Norwegian. Write down the Norwegian names. Then do one of the following:

a) Choose one disability which you would like to learn more about. Use sources from the library or on our website and try to find out what sort of life people with this disability can be expected to have today. Note in particular any advances in medicine and technology that have made their lives easier.

b) Interview someone who has one of these disabilities and find out what it is like for them to live with it.

Write a brief report about what you have found out and read it aloud in class.


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Autism is caused by a problem in the brain. Autistic people find it difficult to mix with other people and express their thoughts and feelings in words. As a result of these problems they often become angry and frustrated.



Some people lose their sight because of a specific eye disease. Others become blind (or partly blind) through accidents or old age. Help for blind people include: guide dogs, white sticks and books written in a special language of raised dots called Braille.

Cerebral palsy


About one child in 500 suffers brain damage at birth. The cause is often lack of oxygen. The result is cerebral palsy – a condition that makes it difficult to control the muscles. People with cerebral palsy often move in a stiff way and often cannot talk clearly.

Cystic fibrosis

This condition (which is inherited) affects the lungs and digestion. People who suffer from it need to take medicine every day. This helps them digest their food. They also need to do special exercises. In this way they are able to control their disability and lead fairly normal lives.


Like blindness, deafness can have several different causes. Also, like blindness, it can be either total or partial. Hearing aids make life easier for the partially deaf. People who cannot hear at all can still understand others by lip-reading, and can communicate by using sign language.

Down’s syndrome

About one child in 1,000 is born with an extra chromosome. These children have Down’s syndrome. They are often very happy, friendly people but they also suffer from mental and physical problems. These include learning difficulties and a high risk of heart disease.


This condition affects one person in 200. And, like cystic fibrosis, it can be controlled by drugs, at least to a certain extent. When someone has an epileptic attack or fit, it is because his or her brain has suddenly produced more energy than usual. This makes the person fall down, shake violently and sometimes become unconscious. Epileptic fits look frightening, but are rarely dangerous.

Muscular dystrophy

Like cystic fibrosis, this disability is inherited. It slowly attacks the muscles which become weak and, finally, useless. Many people with muscular dystrophy use electric wheelchairs and computers. These can be controlled by small sticks that are very easy to operate.


Serious accidents and illnesses often damage the spine. In many cases this leads to paraplegia – another name for paralysis. Paraplegics cannot use their legs, but apart from that, many of them are fit, active people with busy lives.

Web resource

Diseases and conditions (Teens Health)


Health topics (WHO)


Index of illnesses and conditions (BBC)


Kids' quest on disability and health (CDC)


Medical encyclopedia


Ouch! Disability Magazine (BBC)