When you have a child with special needs, the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor can seem overwhelming. This is due to both genetic and societal factors. Just as a child may become differently-abled due to chromosomal abnormalities, they may also deal with a few physical hardships for that same reason as well. Habitually, a child with special needs may also experience issues with poor diet and infrequent exercise. Here are some common health issues for children with special needs:
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Constipation One of the More Common Health Issues for Children with Special Needs
Constipation or irregular bowel movements are a fairly common problem for children and adults with special needs. In a study involving over 700,000 kids with and without ADHD, the results were not surprising. The study found that in kids with ADHD the incidences of constipation triple. At the same time the study found that incidences of fecal incontinence saw a sixfold increase in occurrences. This is often due to a lack of fiber in their diets.
Able-minded and -bodied children may also experience fiber deficiency. But this problem can be especially present in children with special needs as they have ritualistic eating behaviors. This makes constipation one of the most common health issues for children with special needs.
It’s tough getting a special needs child to try new foods or change their eating routines. They may fixate on unhealthy snacks like chips or candy. These snacks can fill them up but keep them from getting the fiber they need. While the occasional foray into unhealthy foods is not completely off-limits, you should keep them to a minimum.
Try replacing chips with popcorn or roasted chickpeas and candy with raspberries to increase their fiber intake. Both popcorn and roasted chickpeas can be flavor using a variety of seasonings to make them more appealing. You may soon find your child asking for these tasty snacks instead of so much junk food. Not only are they good for you, but they can also be very tasty.
Issues with falling and staying asleep impact many differently-abled children, but this issue can be especially prevalent in children with Autism or ADHD. The latter two conditions may cause jitteriness and hyperactivity. Many of the day’s tasks will require sitting, so it’s rare that this energy is expelled before bedtime.
To help your child fall asleep, make sure they get active play during the day and have a soothing nighttime routine. This could be running around in the backyard playing tag, going for long walks with you, or maybe going for a bike ride together. The main intent of this type of exercise is to help burn off some extra energy. Trying to put a child with ADD/ADHD to bed can be hard enough. But if they still have a buildup of unused energy it can become a nightmare for both of you. If you get them involved in some form of physical activity and tire them out, you might find getting them to sleep a little bit easier.
You may also try some natural supplements like valerian root and melatonin. Both can help your child relax and drift off to a healthy good night’s sleep. Like any type of supplement, you should always talk to your child’s doctor before they start taking them.
Millions of people around the world suffer from some form of food allergies. One of the most common of these is seafood. In fact, food allergies are so common that most restaurants post information about their ingredients to help prevent allergic reactions. Food allergies are quite common health issues for children with special needs. A large number of children with special needs will deal with food allergies during their lives. The most common food allergies include:
- Shellfish and seafood
- Peanut and Pine Nut Allergies
- Allergies to Red Dye #5
- Lactose Intolerance
- Gluten Intolerance
If your child is among the lucky ones their allergies may go away over time. They may also be able to get relief from them through the help of a licensed physician. Unfortunately, many allergies can last a lifetime. It’s best to be aware of these allergies to help your child avoid the side effects.
For the same reasons children with special needs often experience constipation, they will experience other nutrient deficiencies. Children may also be born with a genetic inability to maintain certain nutrient levels, so it’s important to keep track of the nutrients they’re getting during the day.
Some common nutrient deficiencies in children with special needs include:
- B Vitamins (B1, B3, B5, B6, B12)
- Vitamin C
- Folic Acid
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins (A, D, K, E)
If your child is deficient in one or more of these vital nutrients, start by looking at their diet. In many instances, it is possible to bring them back to the appropriate levels by making dietary changes. Here are a few suggestions you can add to your child’s diet that will help.:
- B vitamins – meat, whole grains, eggs, dairy, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, seeds, and dark leafy veggies like fresh spinach or broccoli.
- C vitamins – citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, red and green peppers, and kiwi.
- Folic acid – leafy greens, beans, citrus fruits, cereals, bread, pasta, and rice.
- Biotin – meat, egg yolks, yeast, seeds and nuts, dairy, salmon, sweet potatoes, and avocados.
- Magnesium – dark leafy greens, peas, black beans, and almonds.
- Fat-soluble Vitamins (A, D, K, E) – milk, dairy products, carrots, eggs, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes.
Many children with special needs fall subject to sedentary lifestyles, but some special conditions directly impact a person’s weight. For example, Prader-Willi Syndrome can make your child incapable of knowing when he or she is full. To protect your child from obesity, help them maintain their target weight with frequent physical activities, smaller portions, and healthier snacks.
Special Strong can help your child stay more active. Sign your child up private training sessions or a local boot camp today!
Maintaining a Healthy Body for Children with Special Needs
Maintaining a healthy body for children with special needs may involve unique challenges, but it is an essential component for their wellbeing. A balanced and nutritious diet is fundamental for their physical health and can also significantly affect cognitive function, concentration, and energy levels. Regular physical activity should also be encouraged, tailored to their abilities and interests, as it contributes to muscle strength, coordination, and cardiovascular health. Equally crucial is regular medical checkups for monitoring their health progression and attending to any emerging issues promptly.
Sleep is another key aspect of health, and establishing a consistent sleep routine can greatly benefit the child. It’s also important to teach self-care tasks, adjusted to their individual capabilities, to promote independence and good hygiene practices. Additionally, maintaining good mental health is vital, so providing emotional support, a nurturing environment, and early intervention where necessary ensures their overall wellbeing. While every child’s needs are unique, these general principles provide a solid foundation for maintaining a healthy body for children with special needs.
Furthermore, sensory-rich environments can also contribute to a child’s overall health. Activities involving various senses, like touch, balance, body awareness, sight, sound, and smell can provide neurological nourishment and support a child’s ability to learn, move, behave, and even form relationships. Depending on the individual needs of the child, therapeutic interventions such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech and language therapy can also contribute significantly to their development and functioning and should be incorporated as suggested by medical professionals.
Engaging children with special needs in social activities is another important element for maintaining a healthy body and mind. Building real-life social skills boosts their self-esteem and helps them form bonds, friendships, and an understanding of societal norms. Likewise, nurturing their interests in the arts, music, or other hobbies can provide a therapeutic and enjoyable outlet and a sense of achievement.