School Law Bulletin #2002/08

Eligibility under IDEA for Other Health Impaired Children

Monday, July 1, 2002

In recent years, schools have faced increased pressure from some parents to qualify their children as eligible for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The act’s regulations define a child with a disability as one “(1) with mental retardation, hearing impairments . . . speech or language impairments, visual impairments . . . serious emotional disturbance . . . orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities . . . (2) who needs special education and related services because of his or her disability or disabilities.” The other health impaired (OHI) category often serves as a catchall to identify as eligible for special education services students who do not meet the qualifications for other, more clearly defined classifications or who have certain medical diagnoses, such as attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ ADHD). In addition, in recent years schools have faced increased pressure from parents to identify children under the IDEA so students receive modifications and accommodations to the education program, including changes to end-of-grade andend-of-coursetests. Some school officials have used the OHI category to placate parents or to provide special education services to students who do not qualify under the IDEA, even though they have a diagnosed medical condition.

This article attempts to provide a defensible basis for evaluating OHI disability placements, examines the federal and state definitions of OHI, reviews administrative decisions and case law on eligibility and placement, and summarizes the current state of the law on providing services to students classified as OHI.

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Public Officials - Local and State Government Roles