Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Prevention and Wellness for Children with Special Needs-Part 2: How Family Caregivers can help with Physical Activity and Nutrition

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Did you know that 18% of children and 21% of teens are obese, not just overweight (source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention {CDC})?  Children can get “adult” diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol due to obesity.  The two most important components in reducing obesity are nutrition and activity.

Useful information on nutrition is available from the CDC at          http://www.cdc.gov/bam/nutrition/index.html.  Similar information can be found in Spanish at http://www.cdc.gov/spanish/especialesCDC/ObesidadNinos/. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has endorsed the Bright Futures wellness guidelines.  You can access the Bright Futures nutrition guide by age. The guide explains concepts such as portion control and related topics like food allergies.  It can be found at http://www.brightfutures.org/nutrition/index.html.  Information for families is also found at http://www.healthychildren.org/english/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/default.aspx or Spanish http://www.healthychildren.org/spanish/healthy-living/nutrition/paginas/default.aspx.  These resources include information on food substitutions, picky eaters, gluten free diets, etc.  Children who are overweight are likely to grow up as obese adults, so prevention is essential.
                                                                Photo www.nj.com
Physical Activity
Related to obesity prevention is physical activity.  Again, the AAP has endorsed “Bright Futures in Practice: Physical Activity” available at http://www.brightfutures.org/physicalactivity/about.htm.  There are activities for children with disabilities.  You can also find information on subjects such as asthma.  There is also a fitness guide from the AAP found at http://www.healthychildren.org/english/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/default.aspx or Spanish http://www.healthychildren.org/spanish/healthy-living/fitness/paginas/default.aspx.  There are ideas on making time for fitness, involving the whole family and developing a fitness plan, and overcoming obstacles such as living in unsafe neighborhoods. There is also a special guide from the U.S. Department of Health just for girls at http://www.girlshealth.gov/fitness/index.html or Spanish http://www.girlshealth.gov/padres/forma_fisica/index.html.  Body & Mind:  Physical Activity “is available from the CDC and is found at http://www.cdc.gov/bam/activity/index.html or Spanish at http://www.cdc.gov/spanish/hojas/actividad_fisica.html.  “14 Weeks to a Healthier You” is a free online course from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability at http://www.ncpad.org/14weeks/.  There is also a list of accessible playgrounds at http://www.accessibleplayground.net/united-states/new-jersey/.  Other organizations have peer buddies such as:
Ø  Little League Challenger Division
Ø  Miracle League
Ø  Special Olympics NJ
Physical activity is essential for good health for all children, regardless of ability, and there are ways to make activities accessible to them.   
Nutrition and physical activity are even more important for children with disabilities who may be more likely to have weight problems and resulting complications.  Parents of children with disabilities want the best care for their children, and this includes prevention and wellness.    
Remain Hopeful,
Lauren Agoratus is a parent/advocate who works for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and serves as the NJ Coordinator for Family Voices (www.spanadvocacy.org), a national network that works to “keep families at the center of children’s healthcare” at www.familyvoices.org or FB www.facebook.com/pages/Family-Voices-Inc-National/137783182902269.  She also serves as NJ representative supporting caregivers across the lifespan for the Caregiver Action Network (formerly National Family Caregivers Association) in a volunteer capacity at http://caregiveraction.org/ or FB www.facebook.com/CaregiverActionNetwork.



  1. Thanks, Lauren! It is so important for those of us who have children with special needs to remember that our children, too, need nutritious food, a healthy environment, and exercise!

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