School & District Management

Children With Disabilities More Likely Overweight Than Peers

By Nirvi Shah — November 02, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Getting kids to exercise and eat right is challenging enough. But what if they will only eat foods that are yellow? Or don’t have the same feelings of being full as other people? What if the medicine they take to control some of their behaviors makes them gain a lot of weight, fast, or makes them very lethargic?

For students with disabilities, these are all real scenarios, compounding the challenges many children have to stay fit, notes a new report from AbilityPath.org, an online community for parents of children with disabilities and the professionals who work with them.

But too often, children with disabilities—"the population that’s most affected” by challenges with obesity—has been left out, said Sheryl Young, the CEO of AbilityPath.org. “Today we’re changing that conversation.”

Statistics from “Finding Balance: Obesity and Children with Special Needs,” show that children with disabilities are 38 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers.

The report is full of ideas on how to address the problem, but Timothy Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, said the report acknowledges a huge failure. Special Olympics reports that 16.1 percent of athletes screened by the organization are overweight and 32.9 percent are obese.

“Special Olympics is over 40 years old,” he said, and has reached more than 3 million athletes. “To see these number staring us in the face to me says we all deserve a failing grade.”

Children with all kinds of disabilities are likely to be overweight, although children with some conditions are affected more than others.

Analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, the report authors found that almost 51 percent of children receiving special education services were overweight or obese. While about 81 percent of children with limitations on their physical activity were overweight, so were 44 percent of children with attention deficit disorder, 67 percent of the teens with autism spectrum disorder, and 86 percent of the teens with Down syndrome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that health care costs of obesity related to disability is about $44 billion each year.

While many people with disabilities are under the care of a doctor, those physicians often focus on treating patients’ primary condition, Mr. Shriver said. When medications address the disability, doctors and families may be reluctant to abandon them even when a side effect is weight gain.

In addition, parents of children with disabilities may worry that their kids will get hurt if they play sports or participate in fitness activities. While some children are genuinely too fragile to participate in many athletic activities, there are options, such as Special Olympics. And schools are being encouraged to make physical education classes and athletic teams more inclusive of students with special needs.

While adjustments to diet are important, getting kids moving could be a lot easier for children to accept.

“We have to remind people that the best way to incentivize people is to say here’s something fun to do,” Mr. Shriver said. “Let’s get kids playing together.”

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Download 8 Tips for Building a Digital Learning Plan That Conquers Chaos
Craft flexible strategies, encourage experimentation with new instructional models, and regularly solicit feedback.
1 min read
onsr edtech tips
Getty