More than most other demographics of young people, special needs children as susceptible to weight gain. A number of factors play into this, and many of them are the same for able-bodied and able-minded children, like high-calorie/low-nutrition diets, sedentary lifestyles, and to a certain degree, genetics. However, the way that special needs children encounter these obstacles to fitness is unique to the experience of having a disability. In this blog, we’ll explore special needs weight loss tips for your child.
Why Do Special Needs Children Gain Weight?
Before we can fully address the problem, we have to get to the root of the cause. What is it about special needs children that puts them at greater risk for being overweight and obese?
Why Do Children With Physical Disabilities Gain Weight?
Children with physical disabilities may not realize their options for fitness, as the role models for health are nearly all able-bodied. Those with limited mobility and paralysis in certain areas of their bodies sit often, cutting off blood flow at their joints, atrophying muscles, and eventually leading to weight gain.
Why Do Children With Developmental Disabilities Gain Weight?
Parents of children with intellectual disabilities often find respite when their children are watching TV or playing video games, so this inactive behavior is encouraged over “hyperactive” behaviors. Once this habit starts, it can seem impossible to stop, as children with autism and other developmental disabilities often fixate on certain topics, like the media they consume.
Is Special Needs Weight Loss Possible?
Because the issue is so deeply rooted in lifestyle, it can seem difficult to imagine a different way of life for your special needs child. Furthermore, it can seem unrealistic to alter their daily habits because it would ultimately shift your own way of life, and you’ve finally gotten the hang of things. We know you want your child to be healthier and happier, so we just wanted to prepare you for the hardest part of your child’s weight loss plan: changing the way you interact with them.
You’ll have to exercise your own willpower to set an example for your child. For example, you’ll need to give your child healthier snacks, despite the meltdowns that will inevitably ensue when you take the sugary, salty, high-fat snacks away. It’s going to be hard, but this is important. Read on for more detailed special needs weight loss tips for your child:
Special Needs Weight Loss Tips
Replace TV Time
The best way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Instead of just turning off the TV and telling your kid to play outside (or some other vague variant), present your child with a specific alternative: something active and fun. For example, you could…
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Play Active Games
If your child has the motor skills for it, you could play Twister. You could go swimming and play Marco Polo, or go to a playground and play pretend. Play tag together. Have a tickle fight. Whatever you feel is appropriate for your child’s age range and ability, do together!
Serve Proper Portions
One of the biggest reasons for weight gain is unregulated portion control. If something tastes good and we eat quickly, then it’s easy to have too much of a good thing. If you’re more conscientious about portion control, then all you have to do is look up the proper portions for each meal you make. You can even look up the portions by age.
Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
More than giant portions, snacking on foods high in sodium and trans fats is another fast track toward obesity. Either stop buying these high calorie snacks for a while or keep them hidden somewhere they’ll be “out of sight, out of mind.” For kids who love snacking on sweet things, stock up on bananas, apples, grapes, yogurt, and trail mix. For kids who want salty snacks, you can serve carrots and hummus or lightly salted nuts.
Lead by Example
Living an active lifestyle yourself sets the right example for your child. If your kid sees you eating healthy snacks, they’ll start to want healthy snacks. If they see you preparing to go on a run, they’ll begin to think this is a normal thing to do and want to join you. (Even if they’re unable to run, they’ll understand that being active is important.)
Work Out With Your Child
If you want your child to get excited about working out and not just active play, then you should consider working out with them. Try taking your child with you to the gym and setting them up on one of the weightlifting machines or cardio machines. If you want your child to run, you should run with them. If you want them to work on their core, work on your core with them. Setting an example and being a partner in solidarity normalizes fitness and makes it seem both attainable and fun.
Sign Your Child Up for Private Training Sessions
Another great way to get your special needs child in shape is to sign them up for private training sessions. The personal trainers affiliated with Special Strong are certified to work with children and adults with special needs, ranging from intellectual to physical disabilities. We’ve worked with people who were born with special needs and who developed them later in life. We’re experienced all across the board. In fact, our founder has special needs himself. Daniel Stein learned to control the symptoms of his ADHD when he discovered daily exercise. Let your child experience special needs weight loss and other benefits by signing them up with us today.
Special Strong provides nutrition and adapted fitness for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs certification courses for educators, professionals, and parents who want to learn how to adapt fitness to serve the special needs population.