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Importance of Nutrition For Those With Special Health Needs
Everyone needs good health and good nutrition to live their optimal life. There are some people for whom good nutrition is even more important, including those with developmental disabilities and special health care needs. Diet is often a neglected aspect of these people’s lives, but it can help keep them healthier and allow medications to work better.
Shawn is 28 years old and has Down syndrome. He works at a local pizza place and enjoys going out with his friends. Although his mother was against the idea at first, Shawn recently moved into an apartment with three other young men who also have developmental disabilities. Like others their age, they don’t always eat the healthiest diet and occasionally don’t eat at all.
Sean and his roommates have an agency that sends staff to help plan and cook meals, however, the four men are rarely home at the same time and each has different dietary needs and desires. Sean enjoys his job, including one of the perks, which is the free pizza he gets to eat with the others who work at the store. He’s gained thirty pounds in the first three months he’s been working there, which worries his mother for a number of reasons.
The American Dietetic Association’s research points to the need for better programs for people not only with developmental disabilities but also with other special health needs and considerations, not only of their weight but also of the physical, behavioral and psychological problems it may have for them excessive weight gain. Source: Science News)
Down syndrome occurs in 1 in 700 births, with the greatest risk being children born to older women. This syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality and is the cause of nearly 40% of all cases of moderate to severe mental retardation. Babies with Down syndrome have brains that appear normal at birth, but tend to shrink in early childhood, most typically in the hippocampus region of the brain, causing cognitive difficulties and dysfunction.
In the past, babies with Down syndrome were institutionalized and left to their own devices, however, they are now given a much better prognosis, with many, like Shawn, going on to live much more independent lives. Life expectancy has also increased, with many people with Down syndrome living into their 60s. They have an increased risk of certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia and cardiovascular disease, and are more likely to die from these conditions earlier (Source: Papalia, Olds and Feldman).
When Shawn was young, he had a problem with his heart, which was treated with surgery and medication. During his youth and rebellious adolescence, his mother tried to help him maintain his health and weight, but he always had a taste for sweets and heavier foods, so his weight was always an issue. Now that he’s also working on his own, there’s less direction for him and he’s gaining weight because of it. The ADA would like more emphasis to be placed on educating and educating Shawn and others like him about the importance of making healthier food choices. In addition, it is important to educate the facilities and agencies tasked with helping these individuals so that they can help make the right food choices. This isn’t about taking away rights or choices for anyone, it’s about helping people make better choices for themselves.
Shawn and his roommates are diverse in their needs, including David, who has food allergies. Because he is constantly losing weight related to his condition, a third roommate is considering the prospect of having a feeding tube to supplement his oral feedings, which he is trying to avoid. The fourth roommate, like David and Sean, is overweight and would like to lose some weight.
One of the benefits of the area they live in is a sheltered workshop, which not only helped these four young men find jobs and find staff to help them live in their home, but also offers enrichment classes so they can they are constantly learning new information at their own level. They agree to enroll in nutrition classes, where they learn the importance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins as well as the various vitamins and minerals they should have in their daily diet. Shawn, his staff, and his mother also go to a nutritionist to get a customized diet plan that he can try to follow. He’ll learn which foods to eat more of and which to eat less of, including how to make his daily pizza a little healthier by, for example, cutting back on the cheese, beefing up the sauce, and using vegetables instead of meat toppings on the slices he eats.
Part of the reason he eats so much when he gets to work is because he doesn’t eat a big breakfast and is starving by the time his break comes. One of the things he will change is eating a bigger and healthier breakfast before he leaves the house. By eating a morning meal that contains protein and carbohydrates, he has the energy he needs to start the day and is not starving at noon. He will also prepare a small snack to eat during his first short break before lunch time. He also picks fruit to eat with his pizza so he doesn’t have to eat as much.
Shawn and his roommates all use Profect, a protein supplement from Protica, which will also keep him from feeling hungry during the day when used as a snack between meals. Each serving has 25 grams of protein and only 100 calories. Even Shawn’s roommate David, who has food allergies, found a Protica supplement he can use. Proasis, the first all-natural liquid protein supplement, is lactose, aspartame, GMO, egg, yeast, wheat and gluten free. In addition, Proasis is stimulant, preservative and cholesterol free. Both Proasis and Profect come in different sizes and flavors so that each man can find the flavor he likes best.
Due to his heart condition, Shawn has to make sure he sticks to his new, healthier eating plan and try to lose the weight he’s gained. In addition to the new food, a new exercise program should also be started. He has always been excited to go swimming so he will go twice a week and try to walk several times a week. He might even ask one of the pizza girls to walk with him during their lunch break instead of scarfing down the second pizza.
– Diane E. Papalia, Sally Wendkos Olds and Ruth Duskin Feldman A Child’s World: Infancy Through Adolescence Eleventh Edition McGraw Hill Publishing Company. Boston MA 2008
– Science News/ Nutrition Services, Important Prevention in Nutritional Care for Special Health Needs. Science Daily February 1, 2010
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