Defining severe disabilities: Implications for research and practice

Pamela S. Wolfe, Sir Balázs Tarnai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A search was conducted to determine how the term severe disability or severe handicap was defined in the research literature in three data-bases commonly used by special education and related professionals: education (ERIC), medicine (Medline), and psychology (PsycINFO). Articles were analyzed on three dimensions: disability category(ies), characteristic(s), and service need(s). Analysis included 307 studies dating from 1988 to 2003. Results indicate disparity in how terms are used both within and across disciplines. Implications are given for improving definitional use to make research findings meaningful, functional, and replicable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Special Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Rehabilitation


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