Characteristics that we contemporarily define as disabilities have existed in the human population from earliest recorded history. Societal explanations for disability have varied greatly by time and populations in which disabilities have occurred. At various times in history, disability has been viewed as a blessing from deity or the deities, a punishment for sin, or a medical problem. Social workers have worked with persons with disabilities from the inception of the profession, and in recent years, social work has begun to embrace the concept of disability as diversity and to treat disability as diversity and welcome disabled persons as fully participating members of society. Social work has begun welcoming persons with disabilities as fully participating members of society, including valuable members of the profession.
Romel W. Mackelprang
Lisa S. Patchner and Kevin L. DeWeaver
The multiplicity of disability definitions can be attributed to the heterogeneity of disability, its multifactoral nature, and its effects across the life span. Of particular concern to the social work profession are those persons with neurocognitive disabilities. Neurocognitive disabilities are ones where a problem with the brain or neural pathways causes a condition (or conditions) that impairs learning or mental/physical functioning or both. Some examples are intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and savant syndrome. Neurocognitive disabilities are the most difficult to diagnose often times because of their invisibility. Providing services for people with neurocognitive disabilities is very difficult, and people with these disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations in today's society. This entry discusses neurocognitive disabilities and current and future trends in social work disability practice.
David W. Springer and Kathleen A. Casey
Rehabilitation is a complex, multidimensional approach within health care that uses an interdisciplinary model of specialized services. The comprehensive treatment team generally includes medical specialists and therapists who specialize in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, psychology, and recreational therapy. Social workers play a key role in the treatment team, particularly in care coordination, discharge planning, and community reintegration. Trends in comprehensive medical rehabilitation will continue to be significantly influenced by forces within the larger health-care arena. Technological advancements and the social trend toward health and fitness offer great promise for the improvement and expansion of rehabilitation services.