The Need for Special Education Teachers Part 4 – Other Health Impairments

university of redlands online - Other Health Impairments (ohi)
university of redlands online - Other Health Impairments (ohi)

Are you keeping up with our series about the demand for mild/moderate disability special education teachers? This is the fourth article, and it will explore OHI disability (other health impairments).

In the U.S., OHI is the third most common disability among students receiving special education services (Source).

It’s a broad category of disability that includes many health conditions. Each affects learning in different ways.

As a result, a child with an OHI disability needs special education teachers who are adaptable and empowered.

Read on to learn more about OHI disability and how you can support learners by obtaining the Online Master of Arts in Learning and Teaching from the University of Redlands.

ohi disability California teacher credential

What Is OHI Disability?

The definition of OHI disability has three parts, according to the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Source).

Part 1: OHI disability means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness.

IDEA doesn’t define strength, vitality, or alertness. But the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recommends the following guidelines for special education professionals (Source):

  • Strength refers to bodily and muscular power. Can the learner do everyday tasks at school, like holding a pen?
  • Vitality is a mix of physical and mental strength. Can the learner maintain their effort?
  • Alertness is attentiveness and awareness. Can the learner manage and sustain their attention?

Some individuals with OHI disabilities have heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, such as those with ADHD.

Part 2: OHI disability stems from chronic or acute health problems.

There are over 200 health conditions that can cause OHI disability, and most are rare. Common conditions include asthma, diabetes, ADD, ADHD, epilepsy, and leukemia (Source).

All of the underlying health problems have unique traits. For example, while some are present at birth, others develop during childhood. Generally, the health conditions arise from five factors (Source):

  1. Allergies
  2. Heredity
  3. Accidents
  4. Multiple factors
  5. Unknown

Part 3: OHI disability results in limited alertness in the educational environment.

To qualify for special education services, a child must have an OHI disability that adversely affects their educational performance.

The effect of an OHI disability on learning can look different for each child. Examples include (Source):

  • Not making expected academic progress.
  • Having excessive absences for medical treatment.
  • Being unable to manage their hygiene at school.


Redlands Masters in Teaching

ohi special education California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

What’s the Rate of OHI Disabilities Among Students?

Nationwide, approximately 14% of students ages 3 to 21 who receive special education services have an OHI disability (Source).

The rate is similar in California. Twelve percent of students have an OHI disability, making it the fourth most prevalent disability in the state (Source).

The pervasiveness of OHI disability is growing, but why?

The U.S. Department of Education credits the increase to ADHD joining the OHI disability category (Source). ADHD is one of the most common brain disorders among children, affecting approximately 1 in 10 (Source).

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Education announced that ADHD would become an OHI disability under IDEA (Source).

In turn, the number of children served under IDEA for OHI disability grew by 200%. Between the 2000-01 and 2017-18 fiscal years, the percentage rose from 4.8% to 14.4% (Source).

ohi special ed California teacher credential

How Does OHI Disability Affect Learning?

Generally, OHI disability can adversely affect learning in the following ways (Source):

  • Fatigue
  • Mobility issues
  • Attention problems
  • Coordination difficulties
  • Muscle weakness
  • Frequent absences or lateness to school
  • Lessened stamina
  • Inability to concentrate for long periods

The specific effects of OHI disability depend on the underlying health condition. Let’s look at examples of how ADHD, leukemia, and Tourette Syndrome can influence a child’s learning.


ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The core symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These characteristics can affect a child’s ability to participate in classroom activities, acquire knowledge, and complete tasks without distraction (Source).


Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. It accounts for 1 out of 3 cancers in young people (Source).

Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to cognitive changes that have long-term and late effects on learning. Survivors may have difficulties with attention span, reading, spelling, information processing, or fine motor coordination (Source).

Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder. The symptoms are repetitive and involuntary movements and vocalizations, known as tics (Source).

Tics can distract the learner, making activities like reading and writing difficult (Source).

other health impairments California teacher credential

How Do Special Education Teachers Support Learners with OHI Disabilities?

There are many types of OHI disability, so the role of special education teachers varies by student. Overall, their goal is to provide collaborative and individualized support, so they meet the needs of each learner.

Interdisciplinary collaboration is critical.

Because OHI disabilities often involve medical care, special education teachers should be prepared to work with health professionals in and out of school. These may include the school nurse, school psychologist, physical therapists, and speech therapists.

Special education teachers also work with parents, teachers, and other school staff.

The role of this team is first to determine whether a child with an OHI disability needs special education services. If they do, then the team will work together to design and implement an individualized education program (IEP) for the child.

An IEP for OHI disability should support a child's (Source):

  • Physical independence
  • Self-awareness and social maturation
  • Communication
  • Academic growth
  • Development of life skills

Collaboration is one of the essential learning outcomes of University of Redlands’ Online Master of Arts in Learning and Teaching program.

As a student, you’ll learn how to develop and coordinate special education services across a variety of stakeholders. The program will train you to collaborate between special education, general education, colleagues, families, and communities.

The program will also enhance your ability to honor the individuality of every learner. You’ll learn instructional practices that are evidence-based, culturally responsive, and grounded in person-centered values.

As a graduate, you’ll be able to advocate for a diverse population of students while supporting their unique needs and strengths.

other health impairment California teacher credential


How Will the University of Redlands Prepare Me to Help Learners with Mild/Moderate Disabilities?

In California, most students receiving special education services have a mild/moderate disability, such as OHI disability. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, 3 in 4 learners had a mild/moderate disability or autism (Source).

Yet, the majority of first-year special education teachers in California lack a full teaching credential (Source).

The state needs special education teachers who are qualified to advocate for diverse learners.

Redlands will prepare you for exactly that. The Online Master of Arts in Learning and Teaching will train you to teach children with mild to moderate disabilities and autism in K-12 settings through age 22.

The program is integrated with the California Education Specialist Credential. As you work towards earning your master’s degree, you’ll also prepare to fulfill the State of California requirements for the full special education teaching credential.

Engaging coursework and student-teaching experiences will help you learn new approaches to respond to the complexities of teaching in the 21st century.

Redlands’ program is also distinct because of its underlying philosophy.

All of the work you will do as a student derives from social justice principles. You’ll come to understand the intersection of cultural diversity, special education, and inclusion in a more profound way.

Plus, you’ll receive individualized attention from your professors and student success advisor from program entry through graduation.


Looking for More Information?

To learn more about our online Master of Arts in Learning and Teaching degree, start by filling out the form on this page.

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National Center for Education Statistics (n/a). Children 3 to 21 years old served under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by type of disability: Selected years, 1976-77 through 2017-18. Retrieved from

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2018, May 25). Sec. 300.8 (c). Retrieved from

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (n/a). Other Health Impairment. Retrieved from

National Association of Special Education Teachers (n/a). Comprehensive Overview of Other Health Impairments. Retrieved from

California Legislative Analyst’s Office (2016, December 12). Overview of Special Education in California. Retrieved from

WebMD (2015, May 14). CDC: 1 in 10 Children Diagnosed With ADHD. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education (1999, March). Children with ADD/ADHD -- Topic Brief. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education (2006, December 29). The Instruction of Children with ADHD. Retrieved from

American Cancer Society (n/a). Leukemia. Retrieved from

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (n/a). Psychological and Cognitive Effects. Retrieved from

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2019, August 13). Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019, May 29). Tourette Syndrome (TS): Info for Education Professionals. Retrieved from

California Department of Education (2020, January 9). Special Education - CalEdFacts. Retrieved from

Chico Enterprise-Record (2020, January 10). Amid shortages, California schools settle for underprepared special education teachers. Retrieved from

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