What Is an Other Health Impairment?

Disability Category in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

A Student with her Doctor
A Girl Being Examined by a Doctor. Girl with Doctor Photo by Getty

Other health impairment is a disability category included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It covers a variety of conditions, diseases, disorders, and injuries that substantially affect a student's strength, vitality, or alertness.

To be identified with an "other health impairment," the student's condition must cause a substantial impact on his educational performance. The student may qualify for special education services to help them learn and succeed.

You may see "other health impairment" abbreviated as OHI.

IDEA Definition of Other Health Impairments

Other health impairments may be caused by chronic or acute health problems, meaning they can be ones that will last for a long time (or life) or ones that result from an illness or accident but improvement is expected. The condition would be expected to have an impact for at least 60 days.

Examples given in the Act include asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome. This list does not include all possible health issues that could result in a diagnosis of other health impairment.

Some of these conditions can be managed with medication and are less likely to have a substantial impact on learning ability. The designation only applies when the student's ability to progress in a typical classroom is affected by their debility.

This designation allows the student to get access to the special educational services they need.

The OHI category covers many conditions not already spelled out as disabilities in the IDEA. Examples of other disabilities that already have their own categories in IDEA are autism, blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, mental retardation, orthopedic impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, and traumatic brain injury.

These are already separately listed and therefore are not OHI.

ADHD As an Other Health Impairment

The category includes a "heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment." A student with attention deficit disorder, for example, who is distracted by the everyday classroom environment and who cannot pay attention may be diagnosed with an "other health impairment" if the problem is severe enough to affect his learning. ADHD is one of the most common conditions that result in referral for special education services as an OHI.

OHI and Special Education

Other health impairments grew as the classification of 4.5 percent of the special education students in a 2001 study to 12 percent, with much of the increase being from students with ADHD.

Eligibility for a Diagnosis of an Other Health Impairment

The IEP Committee of a school would consider a medical statement of the student's impairment. It should be permanent or expected to last for more than 60 days. The condition would be affecting the student's strength, vitality or alertness in the classroom environment and it has an adverse effect on their educational performance.

Evaluations may be done assessing educational performance and identifying the student's needs for special education.

Sources:

Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1401(3); 1401(30) [ 71 FR 46753, Aug. 14, 2006, as amended at 72 FR 61306, Oct. 30, 2007]   

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