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K1: Awareness of the historical origins, parameters, and current issues related to the classification of Other Health Disabilities.

K2: Awareness of the definitions and characteristics of the primary disabilities included in the OHD category (including acquired brain injury, asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, burns, cancer, cardiovascular disorder, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes mellitus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lead poisoning, migraines, neurofibromatosis, primary immune deficiency, sickle cell disease, sleep disorders, and ADHD).

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Defining OHD as a Special Education Category

Picture of a student sleeping at her desk.Students qualify for special education for many reasons; however, when students have difficulty making academic progress because of a health condition, the educational team may consider special education services under the OHD category. To help you understand how students qualify for special education under this category, you need to be familiar with both the state of Minnesota’s definition and the federal definition. The following definitions are from the Minnesota Department of Education’s Other Health Disabilities Companion Manual (p. 30):

Federal Definition: Other Health Disabilities means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, which results in limited alertness in the educational environment. These limitations must:

  1. be 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, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and
  2. adversely affect a child’s educational performance.

State Definition: Other Health Disabilities means having limited strength, endurance, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened or diminished alertness to environmental stimuli, in the educational environment. These limitations are due to a broad range of medically diagnosed chronic or acute health conditions that adversely affect a pupil’s educational performance.

Both definitions are similar, but there are differences in the wording of the federal and the state definition. To review the Minnesota rule and current language regarding the OHD category, see the Minnesota Rule 3525.1335. Knowing both definitions of OHD will help you understand how students with health conditions may qualify for special education services. The key is whether the health condition interferes with the student’s learning and progress in school. The role of the educational team is to assess, evaluate, and document how the student’s health condition is preventing the student from making academic progress. In the next lesson, you will discover other related terms and definitions that will help you understand more about OHD as a special education category.


Minnesota Department of Education. (2007). Other Health Disabilities Companion Manual (Draft). St. Paul: Author. Retrieved March 29, 2007, from


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