The 5 types of functional diversity (and their associated disorders)

People with functional diversity are those who suffer from some type of problem that makes their daily life difficult.

There are several types of disability and their degree of involvement is very varied. In this article we will discuss the types of functional diversity, the degrees in which it occurs and some associated disorders.

    What is functional diversity?

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the term disability encompasses the deficiencies, limitations and restrictions that a person may suffer from.

    However, in recent years the term functional diversity has been used more and more, being seen as synonymous with disability, although it is perceived to be more politically correct.

    Thus, in relation to the WHO definition, it is understood that functional diversity implies problems that affect body structure, limitations in performing daily actions, and difficulty maintaining social relationships with equals.

    Before focusing in more depth on the different types of functional diversity, it is necessary to address three concepts that are included in this concept:


    Loss of structure or function, Either mental or physical.


    Restriction or total absence of a certain activity.


    disadvantageous situation consequence of a deficiency or handicap which affects daily life.

    Types of functional diversity

    In general, one has the idea that disabilities are an extremely serious and permanent condition. however, the degree to which a person suffers from this type of condition can be very varied and it can even be overcome.

    Not only blindness or intellectual problems such as Down syndrome are examples of functional diversity. Breaking an arm, having myopia or coordination problems, among other more common situations, come under the concept of functional diversity.

    The different types of functional diversity are detailed below, with some examples.

    1. Physics or motor

    Physical disability involves difficulty in making movements, Which affects the ability to move, balance, manipulate objects or even be able to speak and breathe.

    The causes of this type of functional diversity can be varied, there may be problems with bone formation, muscles, limbs or it may be to have suffered an accident that altered physical integrity.

    as well, one of the causes of this type of disability is having problems in the motor cortex, Brain structure that manages movements.

    To support people with this type of disability, it is important to detect barriers that may exist in their daily life, such as stairs, elevators not suitable for wheelchairs or places that are difficult to access.

    Some conditions under which motor diversity occurs:

    • multiple sclerosis
    • spinal cord injury
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • spina bifida
    • cerebral palsy
    • Muscular dystonia
    • Achondroplasia

    2. Visual

    It can encompass both blindness and mild vision problems. Blindness implies that the person sees nothing at all or, at most, can perceive silhouettes of light. The need to wear glasses in order to see is somewhat, though surprisingly, a type of deficiency that would come under the concept of visual functional diversity.

    The most common causes of this type of disability are usually cataracts, easily correctable eye problems such as myopia or strabismus, and eye inflammation. These types of problems usually appear more often after the age of 50. Diabetes can also cause certain types of blindness.

    Measures to help people with visual impairments are varied. In lighter cases, corrective measures, such as glasses, special lights or texts with a larger font size. Eye surgery can also be used.

    The Braille system has been very useful for people with total or partial blindness, as it allows them to read without having to see. Thus, they can perform common tasks such as being able to read a book, make a shopping list or have access to newspapers.

      3. Hearing

      The term hearing loss is very generic and is used encompassing all people who have suffered from some form of hearing loss. This loss can be deep, like the general concept of deafness or cofosis, or mild, like hearing loss.

      The person may have the hearing problem one way (unilateral) or both (bilateral).

      The diagnosis of hearing loss is made by audiometry, Which is a technique that allows to know the hearing acuity of a person.

      The causes of this type of disability can be very varied, such as maternal rubella, hereditary deafness.

      If this type of problem is acquired before learning the language it can be a very detrimental factor for the person to be able to acquire this ability orally.

      People with hearing loss can perform their daily tasks satisfactorily if they are satisfied with the measures designed to make their life easier. Some examples of things that make their lives easier are hearing aids, sign language and visual aids.

      4. Intellectual and psychic

      Here we make a distinction between what is meant by intellectual disability and what is considered psychic.

      Intellectual functional diversity implies that the person has cognitive difficulties. This term replaced the expression mental retardation. This involves adaptation problems and learning difficulties. It can coexist with other types of disability, as many disorders in which there are intellectual problems also pose another type of difficulty.

      Intellectual disability can lead to slower development. Children can take much longer than children their age to talk, walk, learn literacy skills,

      The factors causing intellectual problems can be very varied, ranging from chromosomal problems to malnutrition, to traumatic brain injury.

      Here are some examples of conditions in which there is intellectual functional diversity:

      • Down syndrome
      • Fetal alcohol syndrome
      • Fragile X syndrome

      • Klinefelter syndrome

      In terms of psychic diversity, it refers to difficulties in areas such as communication or social interactions.. It differs from intellectual type diversity primarily because intelligence is not affected. It affects adaptive behavior. Some examples of problems involving this type of diversity are psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder …

      5. Multisensory

      There are people who suffer from both hearing and vision problems. This group is called a deafblind person, but it should be noted that they don’t necessarily lack both senses completely.

      This type of problem can occur from birthIn other words, congenital deafblindness, or can be acquired during the first years of development, being called acquired deafblindness.

      In the most severe cases, people with this type of disability have serious problems interacting with the outside world, because not seeing or hearing means that the two main avenues for acquiring information from the outside world are closed.

      The most well-known syndrome in this type of functional diversity is Usher. It is characterized by the fact that the child is born with hearing problems and, when he reaches adolescence, loses his sight.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Marchesi, A., Coll, C. and Palacios, J. (2004). Psychological development and education: 3. Developmental disabilities and special educational needs. Madrid: Editorial alliance.
      • Smith, RJH, Berlin CI, Hejtmancik, JF, Keats, BJB, Kimberling, WJR, Lewis A., Möller CG, Pelias MZ, Tranebjærǵ, L. (1994). Clinical diagnosis of Usher syndromes. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 50 (1), 32-38.

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