Exploring the ICF: Defining Functioning & Disability

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is a framework for describing and organizing information on functioning and disability.  It works particularly well in the field of pediatric physical therapy, where we are increasingly moving away from the medical model and beginning to think of the whole child in terms of functioning (health) and disability.

In a recent Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association Network article, Danielle Heider, CRC, MRC wrote:

As a certified rehabilitation counselor specializing in working with transitioning youth, it is my job to help young adults begin to think about what they want to do for a job, consider if there are any accommodations needed, and help them understand how to ask an employer for accommodations.  This can seem like a daunting task for some young people, especially if they are accustomed to hearing others talk about everything they can’t do.

I imagine it overwhelming to read a report that is full of details about all the things a child can’t do.  Luckily, physical therapists are in a unique position to bring to attention  the amazing functional things that children can do as well. The ICF introduced the idea of using neutral language as much as possible and recording details of not only disability but also functioning in order to attain a more balanced approach to living life with a health condition.

Therefore, the body functions, body structures, activities and participation sections are divided into two parts: Functioning and disability.  Functioning is an umbrella term for the areas that can be put into immediate use with participation.  Disability is the umbrella term for an area requiring assistance and is usually where goals and objectives are drawn from.

Next in the ICF Series:  What Does the NDTA Enablement Model Add to the ICF?


How to use the ICF A Practical Manual for using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health





Author: spritelypt

Pediatric physical therapist

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