The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), our nation’s special education law, defines 14 categories of disability under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services. One of those categories is “Other Health Impairment,” or OHI, for short. Within OHI’s definition, numerous disabilities and medical conditions are explicitly named, such as leukemia

A Brief Look at Leukemia

Normally, your body’s bone marrow produces white blood cells when you need to defend against infections. Leukemia develops when the marrow produces far too many white blood cells and what’s produced is abnormal. Leukemia is considered a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. There are four major types, each beginning in a cell in the bone marrow.

Leukemia can develop at any age, although it’s most common in people over age 60. More than 230,000 people in the United States have one of the four types of leukemia. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (listed below, under Resources), the most common type in children under 19 years of age is Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).

Symptoms of Leukemia

As with many other health impairments, leukemia’s symptoms are similar to those of other more common illnesses. The signs also vary, depending on the type of leukemia. ALL, the type most common in children, has the following symptoms, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

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  • Tiredness or no energy
  • Shortness of breath during physical activity
  • Pale skin
  • Mild fever or night sweats
  • Slow healing of cuts and excess bleeding

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  • Black-and-blue marks (bruises) for no clear reason
  • Pinhead-size red spots under the skin
  • Aches in bones or joints (for example, knees, hips or shoulders)
  • Low white cell counts


A child showing any such symptoms should visit a healthcare professional for examination, to identify the cause. To diagnose leukemia, the doctor will use a complete blood count, looking in particular at the number of white cells in the blood. To diagnose what type of leukemia is involved, a complete blood exam and a number of other tests must be used.

Treatment will vary, depending on the type of leukemia involved. Regardless, its aim is to put the leukemia into remission. Today, this is happening more and more frequently, thanks to medical science and concerted research efforts into the cause and treatment of leukemia.

Resources of More Information on Leukemia

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
(800) 955-4572

Información en español

National Cancer Institute

General Information About Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (fact sheet)

Leukemia (a fact sheet) from the Mayo Clinic