Living with impairment: learning from disabled young people's biographies

Michael Curtin, Gill Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Little research has been published investigating the experiences of growing up with an impairment from the perspective of disabled young people. The aim of our research was to investigate the life stories of a small number of disabled young people through their biographies. Nine young people who have a motor impairment, three girls and six boys, aged between 10 and 14 years old, were recruited through two segregated special schools. Each young person participated in several open interviews in which they were encouraged to tell their life story, collaborating in the co-construction of their own biographies. Once the biographies were completed, they were thematically analysed. Four themes emerged from the analysis: family, friends, education and living with an impairment. The focus of this article is on the last theme. The findings indicate that the young people were positive about their lives, even though they implied it was a struggle at times, due primarily to the negative perceptions the general public had of disabled people. They did not feel that their medical and therapy interventions contributed to them feeling different, seeing these interventions as important to maintaining and improving their function. They accepted that they had an impairment but did not see this as a reason for not getting on with their lives. The findings challenge health professionals to believe that it is possible to lead a fulfilling life in spite of having an impairment and that interventions should reinforce the disabled young people's personal acceptance of who they are.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-408
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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