Exploring the ICF-CY: Identifying Body Structures & Body Functions

Impairment Wordle

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability & Health- Children & Youth (ICF-CY) is a framework for describing and organizing information on functioning and disability.


This post will be focusing on body structures and body function.  This portion of the ICF-CY describes what is happening at the structural level of a person’s body.   Often when reviewing a chart one sees that hearing and vision have been screened and passed.   This is an example of functioning.  Although the ICF-CY is designed to be as neutral as possible, physical therapists and medical teams must also discuss impairments which often relate to disability.   Impairment is the description of body structures that are diminished, weakened or damaged.  Management often involves a full medical team. For instance, a team consisting of an orthopedist, a physiatrist and a physical therapist  (and parents) will all coordinate different aspects of care for a child with with hip subluxation.

Here is a list of body structures and body functions that are often discussed within the ICF framework. especially as they relate to children and youth:

  • Low birth weight and failure to thrive
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Neurological
  • Special senses and speech (visual, auditory, vestibular)
  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Digestive system/gastrointestinal
  • Genitourinary disorders
  • Hematological disorders
  • Skin disorders/ integumentary
  • Endocrine disorders/metabolic
  • Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems
  • Cognition/perception
  • Immune system disorders
  • Cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases)
  • Pain

Note that balance and physical endurance are contained within in this domain, as they are considered body functions.

Impairments can be divided into primary and secondary:

  • Primary impairments  are motor behaviors that are directly related to changes in any system. Examples: muscle tone, postural stability, motor coordination. (2).  Primary impairments are any impairments that are present at birth such as heart defects, endocrine diagnoses, visual impairments.
  • Secondary impairments  develop over time and frequently as a result of the primary impairments. Examples:  Decreased range of motion, force production and endurance (2)

Wondering about tests and measures that fit into the body structures and body functions section of the ICF?  Check out this list


  1. Social Security Administrations listing of Childhood Impairments (Part B)
  2. Components of Typical and Atypical Motor Development, Lois Bly
  3. Description of Primary and Secondary Impairments in Young Children With Cerebral Palsy. Lynn Jeffries, PT, DPT, PhD, PCS

Author: spritelypt

Pediatric physical therapist

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