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(14.7) Who qualifies for special education under the “other health impairment (OHI)” category?

(14.7) Who qualifies for special education under the “other health impairment (OHI)” category?

Under federal and state law, students are eligible for special education under OHI if they have limited strength, vitality, or alertness (including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness in the educational environment), that is due to chronic or acute health problems, including, but not limited to, a heart condition, cancer, leukemia, rheumatic fever, chronic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, asthma, epilepsy, lead poisoning, diabetes, tuberculosis, Tourette syndrome and other communicable infectious diseases, hematological disorders, such as sickle cell anemia and hemophilia, nephritis, attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and which adversely affects a student’s educational performance.  [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.8(c)(9); 5 California Code of Regulations (C.C.R.) Sec. 3030(b)(9).] 

An “adverse effect” on educational performance may be measured by a student’s grades, but may also include consideration of other ways in which a student’s condition affects his school activities. School districts tend to read “adversely affect” narrowly and focus solely on academic performance.  The courts take a broader view of educational performance and include consideration of a student’s academic, social, health, emotional, communicative, physical and vocational needs.  [Seattle School Dist. No. 1 v. B.S., 82 F.3d 1493, 1500 (9th Cir. 1996).] 

Federal law also distinguishes between educational and academic performance and establishes that educational performance is a broad concept.  For example, students must be assessed by schools in all areas of suspected disability.  [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(b)(3)(B).]  Those areas are defined by federal regulations to include: health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities.  [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304(c)(4).]  Academic performance is only one of the areas in which students must be assessed.  In addition to grades and standardized tests scores, schools must consider how the student’s emotional health or other conditions adversely affect his non-academic performance in social, behavioral and other domains as well.