When it comes to paying attention to our own health, many of us have already developed bad habits. These can range from eating too much junk food to skipping meals. They could be spending too much time watching TV or surfing the web. When you allow this to happen, you might not realize it, but it can lead to poor health for your child over time. There are a few things you can stop doing to make your special needs child healthier.
Children turn to their parents for guidance and as an example of how they should act. It is up to you to provide your special needs child with the best possible example. You can’t afford to do anything less. Your child is going to pick up on your bad habits far faster than your good ones. This is just a fact of life and is the same for “normal” and special needs kids. The big difference is that you may find it harder for your special needs child to “unlearn” bad habits.
Here are 5 things to stop doing to make your special needs child healthier:
Stop Unlimited Screen Time
TV can be a great learning tool for all children, but especially children with special needs. Signing Time, Baby Einstein, Dora the Explorer – all these and more can be great stimulants in moderation.
The problem we run into is that, after work, it’s tough to muster the energy to physically play with our children or engage with them. Sometimes – or more often than sometimes – TV, video games and mobile games become our substitutes.
If the show or game encourages physical activity or interaction, this can be helpful. However, the number one thing to do to improve your child’s health is to stop allowing unlimited screen time. Consider setting specific times of the day when they can watch TV. Alternatively, try giving them a set number of “TV hours” each day. You can work with your child to help them choose when and what to watch.
Stop Giving Food as a Reward
In American culture, it’s the norm to use food as a form of celebration. When we’re having a holiday get-together, we eat. If we do something great at work, we’re rewarded with food. It’s no wonder we continue this habit with our children, rewarding them for their good behavior with unhealthy snacks and desserts.
There’s something to be said about rewarding your children with healthy snacks. But, overall, it’s important to encourage your children to eat when they’re hungry. You should not use food or snack as a reward or form of entertainment. Doing so can lead to bad eating habits (something that is hard enough to deal with when you have a special needs child).
If you must give your child treats as rewards, try giving them healthy snacks like veggies and dip or fruit. Not only do these make tasty treats, but they are also less likely to lead to issues such as childhood obesity. This is one of the top things to do to make your special needs child healthier.
Stop Fast Food for Convenience
In a similar vein as unlimited screen time, fast food is a convenient, easy way to make sure everyone in your family eats something that they enjoy. It’s tough to get your child with special needs to try new things. If they’ve already formed a habit of eating McDonald’s every night, it can pose serious risks to their health. Habits like this can be very challenging to break.
There is absolutely nothing healthy about the foods you can find in just about any fast-food restaurant. They contain excessive calories, carbs, and fats, but they contain very little in the way of nutrition. Much like using food as a reward, feeding your child to much junk food can lead to poor health. It can also lead to an increased risk of childhood obesity that will plague them as they reach adulthood. This is one of the most important things to stop doing to make your special needs child healthier.
You might try weaning your child away from the habit of eating fast food regularly by:
- Taking a trip to the grocery store to shop regularly for healthy foods, or
- Trying to make your child’s favorite fast food at home, using healthier alternatives.
Stop Doing Everything for Them
Your child has developmental delays that can cause them to perform their daily tasks at a rate much slower than you’re used to. This can tempt you to do just about everything for your child. You might tie their shoes to help you get out the door faster, maybe you run out of patience and clean up their messes. This is another one of the many things you can stop doing to make your special needs child healthier.
Chances are good that your child is perfectly capable of handling these tasks, they just need more time to get them done. When you allow them to do things for themselves can boost their self-confidence and exercise their brains. It might take a little extra time. But if you build this time into your plans, you won’t feel like you must constantly rush around.
Stop Neglecting Yourself
Your children model everything they do after the things that you do. You can tell them to eat healthier and to do more physical activity all you want, but if they see you eating fast food and watching several hours of TV every night, then that’s what they’ll be inclined to do too. Take care of yourself so that you can be an example of healthy behavior for your child with special needs. You are the only one who can set the right example for your child, be sure you are doing your best at all times. Do the right thing for your child; try these things to stop doing to make your special needs child healthier.
Special Strong provides fitness and nutrition for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs fitness certification courses for personal trainers and service providers who want to work autism and other disabilities.