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The total number of children with disabilities living in any given country is unclear, since this figure changes dramatically depending on the definition of disability used.

Definitions of disability may or may not include children and young people with Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Dyspraxia, those living with mentail ill health such as clinical depression or those with a physical ill health such as cancer or kideny failure. They too are disabled by their condition but may be defined outside any given definition of disability.

UK national legislation such as ‘The Children Act’s’ defines a disabiled child as, ‘a child is disabled under s17 (11) if he or she is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially or permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenial deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed.’ (Hardy 1997. p50.)

However, Hertfordshire Local Authority defines a child or young person with a disability; “if he or she has special needs in the area of health, education or physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development due to multiple and complex health needs, sense impairment such as hearing loss, visual impairment or deaf blind, a significant learning difficulty, a physical disability, a chronic physical illness, autism (or associated spectrum disorder) and communication disorder and/or a significant pre school delay.” (Orton 2007.)

With clear disparities of definitions, how can we clearly understand the level of need that exists and those individuals that live in our societies who require support services?

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