How to Protect Your Special Needs Child from a Stroke

There is something we have been noticing here at Special Strong. This is that most of our clients both children and adults tend to lead sedentary lifestyles. This can have profound effects on the client’s life, such as an increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Here’s how to protect your child from having a stroke:

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.

Know the Signs

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Before diving into preventative measures for strokes, it’s important to know the signs of a stroke, so you can take immediate action in the event this happens to your child.

These are the most common signs of a stroke:

  1. One side of the face droops.
  2. The inability to raise only one arm.
  3. Speech is slurred or impeded.

Other less common signs of stroke are a sudden onset of:

  1. Numbness in face, arms, legs, often on the same side of the body.
  2. Confusion
  3. Vision problems
  4. Difficulty walking
  5. A severe headache

If you notice the above signs in your child, call 911 immediately. Acting right away can save your child’s life and make rehabilitation more likely.

Early Signs Your Special Needs Child is Suffering from a Stroke

Recognizing the early signs of stroke is critical, especially in children with special needs who may not clearly communicate what they’re feeling. Here are some symptoms you should look out for:

1. Sudden Weakness or Numbness: Be alert for unexpected loss of strength or numbness on one side of the child’s body.

2. Difficulty Speaking or Understanding: If your child suddenly has trouble speaking or understanding spoken language, this could be an alarming sign.

3. Trouble Seeing: An abrupt change in vision in one or both eyes could indicate a stroke.

4. Loss of Balance or Coordination: If your child suddenly experiences unsteadiness, clumsiness, or has trouble walking, it can be a sign of stroke.

5. Sudden Severe Headache: A sudden, severe headache with no known cause should be treated as a warning sign, especially if accompanied by vomiting or dizziness.

6. Alteration in Consciousness: Unexplained changes in the child’s level of alertness including lethargy, irritability or confusion.

7. Seizures: New onset, unexplained seizures may indicate a stroke in children.

Since strokes can happen unexpectedly and differ significantly from person to person, it’s crucial to remain conscious of any alarming physical or behavioral changes in your special needs child. Swift action and medical intervention are key in minimizing the potential harm a stroke can cause. Therefore, it’s essential to immediately seek medical attention the moment any of the above-mentioned symptoms are witnessed.

Help Your Child Maintain a Moderate Weight

Obesity comes with many side effects, including a risk of heart disease, diabetes and increased risk of stroke. To protect your special needs child from a stroke, one of the best things you can do is make sure they’re maintaining a moderate weight. It is far too easy for those with special needs who lead sedentary lives to become overweight.

One of the biggest culprits in childhood obesity is junk food. It is far too easy to give in to a child who won’t eat anything else. Changing the way your child eats is probably not going to be easy. Many special needs kids tend to be fussy about what they eat. Once they find a “favorite” food, it can be all they want to eat. It is up to you to find healthy alternatives to their favorite junk foods.

You can try things like nuts, fruits, even popcorn as long as you don’t pour tons of butter on it. The trick is to try a range of different healthy foods and snacks one at a time to see which your child likes. Then you can slowly start replacing the junk with these healthy foods. Be patient, it can take a long time to make the changes without causing excessive stress.

Healthy Snacks Play an Important Role

Healthy snacks in moderation can be part of how to protect your child from having a stroke. The same goes for sugary drinks like sodas, many fruit juices, Cool Aid, and sweet teas. There are healthy alternatives that are naturally sweetened using fruit juices and more recently Stevia. Stevia powder is made from leaf extracts from the leaves of the Stevia plant. Stevia is 200-350 times sweeter than sugar, meaning you have to use far less of it. One of the main dietary benefits of stevia is that it has no calories.

You can learn your child’s target weight by calculating their BMI. If your child is overweight, these are a few things that can help them get back on track:

  • Keep a food journal for them.
  • Make sure they’re burning more calories than they’re consuming.
  • Replace foods with saturated fats with healthier options.
  • Reduce sugar intake.
  • Encourage active play over sedentary activities.

Have Diabetes Diagnosed Early and Treated Properly

Type II Diabetes is most commonly associated with obesity, but your child could be at risk of diabetes, even if they’re maintaining their target weight. As diabetes is a common prerequisite to strokes, it’s important to schedule frequent doctor’s visits to catch diabetes early and have it treated properly.

In most cases, Type II diabetes doesn’t rear its ugly head before a child turns five and can wait until they are in their 30s to manifest. Diabetes occurs when excess sugars (blood glucose) build up in your child’s bloodstream. Your body produces insulin to help cells absorb the glucose in foods into your bloodstream.

Among the many common signs of diabetes II are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Changes in behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Yeast infections
  • Blurry vision

Steer Them Away from Smoking and Drinking

If your child is young, you may be rolling your eyes at this piece of advice. But you’d be surprised at how far the pressure to drink and smoke can reach – especially if you do either of these things in front of your child. If you’re a smoker, consider quitting to set a good example. It will also protect your child from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. If you “can’t” quit at least do your smoking away from them so they aren’t breathing secondhand smoke.

If you drink in front of your child, do so in moderation and choose healthier options, like red wine. Remember, you are your child’s idol and they will follow your lead. Even if it is in the wrong direction. It is up to you to set a good example for your kids.

Make Exercise a Habit

One of the best ways to protect your special needs child from a stroke is to make exercise a habit for them. It’s easy for young children to get exercise because so many childhood games involve running around. It can be a little tougher to encourage teenagers to engage in physical activity, however.

That’s where Special Strong comes in. Our personal trainers have experience working with children, teenagers and adults with special needs. They have the training and the heart to make a difference in your child’s life. Sign your child up for private training sessions or a local boot camp class today!



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