Special Needs

Nutritional Challenges for Special Needs Children

Jwaher Al Neama/ Nutritionist, EIM Department
18 May, 2016

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Nutrition must be essential in your care if you are a parent of a child with special needs. Good Nutrition is important to enhance your child's development and health but there are many nutritional challenges facing children with special needs and their families.

Here we will shed light on some common nutritional challenges that children with special needs may face with the submission of solutions. But we must keep in mind that Nutritional challenges and problems vary depending on the status of each child and our goal is just to to provide general guidelines for the parents.

Obesity: Children with limited mobility or those who have conditions like Down syndrome can have low muscle tone, which make it hard to control their weight. It is important to establish good eating habits from the begining, limit your child's experiences with sugary, salty and processed foods so that they can develop a taste for fresh, seasonal foods. Teach your child the importance of healthy food in a simplified manner fits his mind and help him to choose varieties of healthy food, or even encourage him to shop with you and to choose the healthy food options.
You should also encourage your child to find a physical activity that he loves and he can perform safely and confidently. Team sports is one of the best choices, whether they dedicated to special needs kids or public, because they enhance confidence in his ability and prevent social isolation. In addition, the physical activity contributes to distract the child from playing electronic devices, which is a leading cause of childhood obesity worldwide, whether of people with special needs or not

Being Underweight:  because of various problems, including difficulties in swallowing or speedy metabolism, caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy. Swallowing problems are an issue which needs to be diagnosed by a therapist. In mild cases, the therapist can work alongside your child to improve the swallowing mechanism. The optimum solution to encourage eating is usually experimentation; try out different types of food that can provide adequate nutrition. Do not worry if your child refused to eat foods out of his preferences you can still provide the rest of the nutrients through dietary supplements

It is also important to look beneath the surface and analyze whether a child's lack of appetite can be caused by an other issue such as depression. This condition is featured by loss of energy and avoidance of social occasions and activities. If depression is suspected, it is vital to seek medical advice to determine the causes and treatment.

Food preferences: More often, you may experience difficulty in controlling your child's choices of food and because of his health condition and preference for a particular type of food. For example, children with autism may have an adverse reaction towards certain foods, but children with Down syndrome may prefer softer foods because of the difficulty in chewing or swallowing. Do not worry if your child refused to eat foods outside his preferences, you can still provide the rest of the nutrients through nutrtionial supplements

Side effects of Medication: Most children with special needs are receiving medications that cause weight gain. So it is important to talk to your physician to find out whether there is an alternative medications with fewer side effects.

Finally, Overcoming the challenges of food for children with special needs is a complex issue in some cases and may be greater than the ability of the parents. So don’t hesitate to consult a specialist to make sure that your child is enjoying a world of colorful delicious healthy food.




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