SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 2, 2011 — Children with special needs are far more likely to be overweight or obese than their counterparts according to "Finding Balance: Obesity and Children with Special Needs," the second in a series of groundbreaking reports produced by AbilityPath.org, an online resource and social community for parents and professionals serving the needs of adults and children with disabilities. This landmark report, the first to focus exclusively on how the obesity epidemic affects children with disabilities and special needs, presents not only the extent and causes of the problem, but also offers practical solutions for families and others caring for these children.
"For too long the national discussion about obesity has excluded millions of children who are most affected," says Sheryl Young, CEO of Community Gatepath, the nonprofit organization that created AbilityPath.org. "This eye-opening report and Parent Toolkit will allow parents and others to find the right balance of solutions as they work to improve the health, nutrition and fitness of their children with disabilities and special needs. This report shows there is hope and that it is well within reach."
In collaboration with Special Olympics and Best Buddies International, the country's premier organizations representing those with intellectual disabilities, Young announced that AbilityPath.org is launching a nationwide campaign that will engage a broad coalition of parents, health professionals, activists and policy makers to adopt and promote tools for healthier, more active lifestyles among children with special needs and disabilities.
"We must all be part of this fight," says Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. "Obesity is not just a health issue – it is a family issue, a social issue and a human dignity issue."
AbilityPath.org produced Finding Balanceafter hearing for years about the struggles that families faced in their efforts to keep their children with special needs and disabilities at a healthy weight. Food issues, medication side effects, limited mobility and limited access to sports and other active recreational activities make the challenges families face even harder. "Few people understand how many obstacles there are and how few resources on this subject exist," says Young. "We wanted to give help and hope to those who need it most."
Finding Balance brings together in one place, for the first time, information and practical solutions for parents, health professionals and other caregivers intended to address the multiple challenges that are rarely understood. The report highlights various disabilities and their influence on obesity, providing suggested remedies for overcoming those challenges. "This report is a critical guide for making change," says Anthony K. Shriver, founder and chairman of Best Buddies International, an organization that provides opportunities for friendship, employment and leadership training for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. "The key is offering opportunities for companionship, recreation and inclusion. It's more effective than saying 'You've got to lose 25 lbs' or 'You've got to eat better.' If you're changing one person's life, you're changing the world."
Finding Balance helps fulfill the broader mission of AbilityPath.org, which is to provide hope and help for the community of families and others who care for children and adults with disabilities and special needs. AbilityPath.org recently partnered with Nickelodeon to publish the "How iPlay Guide," a collection of inclusive and adaptive play activities from partners like Special Olympics and Best Buddies, as part of the network's World Wide Day of Play.
The full report can be downloaded by visiting www.abilitypath.org. Finding Balance's Parent Toolkit provides strategies and tips for parents to help their special needs child develop a healthy relationship with food, covering topics such as working towards a healthy weight, eating in restaurants, healthy snacking, resources for adaptive and inclusive fitness activities, and more.