Living with Impairment: Learning from Disabled Young People's Biographies

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Little research has been published investigating the experiences of growing up with an impairment from the perspective of disabled young people. The aim of the present research was to investigate the life stories of a small number of disabled young people through their biographies. Nine young people who had a motor impairment, three girls and six boys aged between 10 and 14 years, were recruited through two segregated special schools. Each young person participated in several open interviews and was encouraged to tell his or her life story, collaborating in the co-construction of his or her own biography.

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 that it was a struggle at times, primarily due to the negative perceptions that the general public had of disabled people. They did not consider that their medical and therapy interventions contributed to their feeling different, but saw 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 themselves.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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