Other Health Impairment (OHI): Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Students with 'other health impairments' often get tired easily, have trouble paying attention in class, and miss school frequently, causing them to fall behind. Let's explore other health impairments and how federal law protects these students.

Living with Disabilities

Attending a full day of school as a young child can be exhausting. A typical school day includes riding the bus, completing assignments, following directions, navigating school grounds, reading, writing, solving problems, and taking tests. Even the fun parts, like recess and playing with friends, require energy and skill.

Now imagine trying to do all of these things with feelings of extreme fatigue or illness as well as limited strength. This is how some students live. It makes sense that these students may qualify for accommodations and special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to help them reach their potential.

What Are Other Health Impairments?

'Other health impairment' (OHI) is one of the 13 disabilities covered under IDEA. It's a chronic condition that results in limited strength, energy, and attentiveness that negatively affects the student's educational performance. Under IDEA, students with other health impairments that significantly affect their ability to learn can qualify for special education services.

IDEA gives several examples of conditions that may fall under OHI, including limited strength, energy, and attentiveness associated with asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), diabetes, Tourette syndrome, and heart disease. It's important to point out that these examples are not an exclusive list. Other diseases or conditions that cause limited strength, energy, and attentiveness may also fall under OHI if they do not fit in any of the other disability categories.

Prevalence of Other Health Impairments

About 10% of students receiving special education services qualify under OHI. This percentage has increased over the last several years, most likely because of the rise in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD.

Although OHI is not the most prevalent disability teachers see, it is important to be prepared for any challenge that enters your classroom. A good place to start is by learning about the common characteristics of OHI and how your students may be affected.


A variety of medical conditions fall under the umbrella of OHI, and they are all very different from each other. This makes it difficult to cover OHI in depth, but there are a few common symptoms that affect students with OHI in the classroom, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Frequent absences
  • Lack of endurance
  • Mobility issues
  • Poor coordination

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