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An umbrella term, “other health impairment” (OHI) encompasses a range of conditions. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) names several such disorders in OHI’s official definition: “having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that— (a) is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis [a kidney disorder], rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and (b) adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (abbreviated NICHCY) labels “such as” as key words within IDEA’s definition. These two words acknowledge that conditions not directly named in the definition can still meet the qualifications needed to fall within the OHI category.
Compiling a list containing common traits among OHIs is an overbearing task given the wide range of impairments that the term covers. After all, Tourette syndrome differs from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) the same way that diabetes differs from epilepsy. Researching the traits of a specific condition within the classification of OHI will allow you to gain a better understanding of the common traits of that condition—an understanding that is much more practical than knowing the traits of the category as a whole.
The vast net cast by the other health impairment category broadens the range of educational challenges that an OHI can create. For example, compare epilepsy and AD/HD. MedlinePlus mentions that the educational challenges presented by epilepsy revolve around safety issues linked with seizures; in contrast, the academic barriers related to AD/HD involve trouble concentrating and difficulty sitting still. The vast majority of students served in the OHI category have AD/HD. Since that disorder was included in this category, the number of students labeled OHI has grown significantly.
Tips for Teachers and Parents
Successfully educating students with OHIs begins with individualized education programs (IEPs). An IEP should list all of a student’s special needs. Parents, whether your child gets access to medicine, has specific nutritional needs or receives other appropriate accommodations, reiterate these needs to your son’s or daughter’s educators to ensure that they are aware. In cases in which the school nurse plays a vital role in managing an OHI, both teachers and parents should communicate regularly with the nurse.